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The Military Policy of Leo III and Constantine V

and lts Effect on Arab-Byzantine Warfare on the Taurus Border,


7L5-775 A.D.

by

CLINTON STAPLES

A thesis
presented to the University of Manitoba
in partial fulfillment of the
requirements for the degree of
Master of Arts
rn
History

Whnipeg, Manitoba
Clint Staples, 1.994
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[&/
TEE HILITARY POLICY OF LEO III AIüD CONSTANTINE V

^AND ITS EFFECT ON ARAB-BYZA-T{TINE WARFARE ON Tffi TAIIRUS BORDER,

7L5-775 A,.D -

by

GLII{ÏON STAPLES

A Thesis submitted to the Faculty of G¡aduate Studies of the University of Manitoba in partial
fulfillment of the requirenents fo¡ the degree of

MASTER OF ARTS

G) 199{"

Pe¡:nission has been granted to the LIBRARY OF THE LINT\TERSITY OF IvfANTTOBA to lend or
sell copies of this thesis, to the NATIONAL LIBR.ARY OF CA}ÍADA to microfilm this thesis and
to lend or sell copies of the film, and tlNTlrtrSITY ñdICROFILT}ÍS to publish an abstract of this
thesis.
The author reserves other publications rights, and neiiher the thesis nor extensive ext¡acts from it
may be prinæd or otherwise reproduced without the autho/s per:urissíon.
Tabne of Co¡rtemts

Introduction.

Historiography 5

Byzantine Sources 1.4

Muslim Sources 22

Leo III

Constantinev... 77

Conclusion L08

Bibliography 115
Acknowledgments

I would like to thank my advisor,Dr. ]ohn WortIey, for his knowledge,


experience and especially his patience. I would also like to thank my parents,
Ray and Ev Staples for giving all the support I could ever ask for.
Most importantly. I want to thank my wife, Penny Staples for
everything. There are truly more ways that you helped than there is space for
here. There is no way this ever would have made it this far without your love
and support.
INTRODUCTION

The fortune of the Byzantine Empire over the course of the eighth

century is an important part of any understanding of Byzantine history in


general. The latter half of the seventh century saw the Empire constantly

threatened by the expansion of Islam. The following century is generally

considered to be a period of great difficulty for Byzanbium, as it struggled for

continued existence against Muslim forces. The respected Byzantinist J.B. Bury

described the situation as follows: "Asia Minor, however, during the eighth

century was as much exposed as ever to the inroads of the Moslem, who
entered by the Cilician Gates and plundered in one year Cappadocia, and in

one year'Asia' or Opsikion.l

In particular, the reigns of the first two Isaurian emperors, Leo Itr and
his son Constantine V, have been seen as a period in which the Empire
suffered extensively, not only from the external threat of the forces of Islam

and of Bulgaria, but also from intense disruption due to the iconoclastic actions

of its rulers.2 This view is largely based upon the testimony of one ninth

1
¡.8. Bury, A History of the Later Roman Empire from Arcadius to lrene.(395-
800). Adolf M. Hakkert. Publ; (Amsterdam,1966) 405; (1st ed. 1889).
2
Louis Brehier states: "The achievements of the Isaurian emperors . . . consisted in
halting the disintegration of the Empire and in protecting it against invasions; but the
task was made difficult and incomplete by the intemal troubles caused by the
iconoclast movement, which brought about the loss of Italy and the West." Life and
Death of B)¡zantium. (Paris, 1946) trans. M. Vaughan; North Holland Publ. Co; New
York, 7977. See also M.V. Anastos, "Iconoclasm and Imperial Rule, 7L7-842,"
century source, the Chronographia, written by the Byzantine monk
Theophanes. Fiercely iconophile, Theophanes must be immediately suspect in

his treatment of the two Emperors in question. In order to determine whether

the reigns of the iconoclastic Emperors were as disastrous for the Empire as

Theophanes would have us believe, it is necessary to re-evaluate their reigns in

the l-ight of other sources.

The Chronographia is the most significant Byzantine source for the

events of the eighth century and is often the only Byzantine source to

comment upon a particular matter. This mearu that one often has to take
much of what it says at face value. It is obvious that Theophanes has a strong

bias against the iconoclastic ideology. However, beyond allowing for some

conscious (or perhaps unconscious) alteration or omission on Theophanes' part,

it is not possible precisely to discem what Theophanes might have altered or


omitted. Other primary sources are required more fully to assess Theophanes'
testimony.

There is only one Byzantine source which contributes significantly to a

more critical understanding of Theophanes' treatment of the eighth century -

the Breviarium of Nikephorus, a Patriarch of Constantinople and a

contemporary of Theophanes. The Breviarium records events of the seventh

and eighth centuries and provides us with the means to check some of

Theophanes statements, but its utility in this respect is quite limited and one

must look elsewhere for further corroboration.3

Cambridge Medieval Histor)¡. c.3, v.4, pt.I, 1966, 61.-1.08; and C. Diehl, Histor)¡ of the
Byzantine Empire. (1st ed. 1919) AMS Press, New York, 1967,53-72.

' See below, p.20-1,, conceming the limitations of the Breviarium as a means for the
corroboration of the statements of Theophanes.
There are several Musiim ch¡oniclers of considerable value in such a

study. Th"y deal with the eighth century, often in more detail than do
Theophanes and Nikephorus, and they have much to say concerning their

Byzantine neighbors. The chronicler and theologian Tabari provides one such

source in the Ta'rikh al-rusul wa'l-muluk, a chronicle of the history of the

world to his own time (d.923). The geographer and historian Baladhuri (d.893)
in his Kitab Fuhrh al-Buldan deals with the origins of Islam and has much of
interest for Byzantine studies. Other Muslim sources such as Yakubi, ibn
al-Tiotaoa. Masudi. and the anonvmous Khitab al-Uvun and Hudud al-Alam

may also contribute to our understanding of the Empire in the eighth century.

There is much of value to the Byzantine historian in a comparison of these

texts with those of Theophanes and Nikephorus.


-
Also well worth taking into consideratiory is the Ch¡onograph)¡ of Bar-

Hebraeus (otherwise known as Gregory Abu Faraj). Although of

comparatively late date (late l-3th century), Bar-Hebraeus contributes


information not available elsewhere and he often appends that which is found
in other sources dating closer to the period under review.
Although all the sources mentioned deal with the period under review
(71.6-775), the events recorded in one source rarely correspond directly to those
set down i. a.y other. There is, however, one subject which appears to have
generated a significant amount of interest in all of the authors, and particularly

in the Muslim writers. That subject is Byzantine-Arab military interaction. I¡:r

fact, the Empire is only rarely mentioned i. *y other context by the Arabic

sources. For this reason it is possible to do a comparative analysis of military

affairs for the greater part of the eighth century, drawing upon both Byzantine

and Arab sources to provide a detailed picture of Byzantine fortunes in this


troubled time.
By taking the evidence of the non-Byzantine writers into account, the

present work will attempt to trace the military fortunes in Anatolia, first of Leo
III, and then of his son, Constantine V. ftr the process, an attempt will also be
made to analyse the actions of both father and son for signs of a coherent

military policy, as well as to assess its feasability. It is hoped that a rigorous


analysis of the wars of the Taurus frontier during the period 71,6-775 may lead

to a better understanding of the reigns of the first two haurian emperors and
of this crucial period in the history of the Empire.
II

HISTORIOGRA"HY

Much has been written in the last century concerning Leo Itr and

Constantine V. These two controversial figures lived in an extremely volatile

period of Byzantine history and could hardly have escaped the scrutiny of

historians. Flowever, the focus of much of this scrutiny has centered upon one

issue - the single greatest dogmatic issue of the eighth and early ninth centuries -

Iconoclasm.a While it is certain that both Leo and Constantine were centrally

involved in the iconoclastic controversy during their lifetimes, it does not

necessarily follow that Iconoclasm was the only, or even the greatest, concern

which they had to face. It is not the purpose of the present work to concern

itself with Iconoclasm. Here an attempt will be made to address another major

aspect of the reigns of the first two Isaurian Emperors: the Arab Wars.

The military ability of Leo and Constantine has long been recognised by

historians. However, most assessments are rather vague and have rested

a
for a number of works which treat iconoclasm as the major crisis of the eighth
See n.2,
century. See also Ch.V, 'the Iconoclastic Epoch ,717-867,' in A.A. Vasiliev, Histoq¡ of the
Byzantine Empire, University of Wisconsin press, Madison,196'J,,2U-299; and Ch.III, 'The
Age of Iconoclastic Crisis,711-843,'in G. Ostrogorsky, History of the Byzantine State. Basil
Blackwell, Oxford,1956,730-786. More recently there is S. Gero, Byzantine Iconoclasm
During the Reign of l,eo III: with Particular Anention to the Oriental Sources. Corpus
Scriptorum Christianorum Orientalium, Louvain, 7973,n.41; and Byzantine Iconoclasm
During the Reign of Constantine V: with Particular Attention to the Oriental Sources.
Corpus Scriptorum Christianorum Orientalium, Louvain, 1977,n.52. ln addition, there is
a wealth of articles which deal with the Isaurians and the icons.
6

primarily upon the information provided by Theophanes. The addition of the

Arabic sources allows for a more detailed analysis of the situation. The majority

of the historians dealing with this subject have either ignored or slighted the

non-Byzantine evidence and have not given the complex question of

Ar ab -By zantine confl ict detailed treatnent.s

E.W. Brooks provided the historian interested in Arabic incursions into

Byzantine territory with several works of inestimable value.ó In these articles

Brooks compiled and translated many references to Arabic invasions of

Byzantine lands during the first two centuries of Islam. While his efforts made

this valuable information available to Byzantinists, they may have inadvertently

led to a somewhat skewed picture of events. Since Brooks' purpose was to

record any reference to Arabic raids made by various Arabic authors, he was not

concerned with reporting on the martial endeavors of their enemies, the Romans.

Thus, one might easily conclude that the Arabic writers are silent upon any

military action initated by the Byzantines, and that the only such mentions are to

be found in Byzantine texts - primarily Theophanes. This is not the case, but it
would appear that for the better part of the last one hundred years, historians

5
ln reference to the military situation of Constantine's time, Bury states: "We need not
pursue all the details of the hostilities between the Empire and the Caliphate in the reign
of Constantine V, læo's son and successor. On the whole the Empire was successful."
. l¿ter Roman Emrrire,
Burv, (395-800),406.

6
E.W. Brooks, "The Arabs in Asia Minor (e1,-750) from Arabic Sources," Tournal of
Hellenic Studies, 18 (1898), 182-208; also, "Byzantines and Arabs in the Time of the Eariy
Abbassids,' English Historical Review,ls (1900), 72847; and, "Byzantines and Arabs in
the Time of the Early Abbassids,Il," English Historical Review, 76 (7901),84-92.
who have commented upon the fortunes of the Byzantines against their Muslim

neighbours have accepted this conclusion.

J.B. Bury, writing in 1889, was aware of the Arabic material but appears

still to have relied primarily upon Theophanes and Nikephorus the Patriarch.T

Bury's work is guardedly favourable to Leo, but concerning the military

situation he briefly relates Theophanes' version of the siege of Constantinople in

718, and of the battle of Acroinontn73g. By effectively relying upon the

Byzantine material, Bury renders himself unable to assess the military program

of Leo in any detail. For Constantine's wars, he has even less information from

which to draw.8

Charles Diehl viewed all the actions of Leo and Constantine as part of a

grand plan for goverrunent which encompassed political, economic, moral, Legal,

and religious aims. He characterizes both father and son as capable and

far-sighted, but his primary goal was to attempt to place iconoclasm in, what

was to him, its proper context.e

Many of the leading Byzantinists of this century have echoed Bury's

sentiments regarding Leo and Constantine. Ir-Lgzï,A.A. Vasiliev praised Leo's

martial Prowess: "The problem of the Arab struggle, thery was brilliantly solved

7
Bury, The Later Roman Empire.(395-800),408.
I See above, n.5.

n
C. Diehl, Historv of the Bvzantine Emoire, 57.
by Leo III."10 He concludes by stating that Constantine was able: " . . . [to] move

the imperial border farther east along the entire boundary of Asia Minor by

means of a number of successful expeditions."ll

Irr Byzantine Civilizatiory published 1n7933, Steven Runciman followed

in the well worn path of Bury and Vasiliev, stating that Leo:

" . . . triumphantly preserved the capital through the great Arab siege of 777-718,

and in his later wars beat the inJidel back to the Taurus frontier."l2 Concerning

Constantine's generalship, Runciman's praise is even greater. Frowever, he

aPPears to have based his assessment heavily upon Theophanes, attempting in


this instance to read beyond the anti-iconoclastic polemic. Yet in his

characterization of Constantine, Runciman rather naively accepted Theophanes'

accounts of Constantine's debauchery and participation in: " . . . Mock-ritual and

Black Mass," a charge which must be treated carefully, given Theophanes'

obvious hatred of the Emperor and his religious beliefs.l3

George Ostrogorsky, writingtnIg40, follows Runciman in his estimation

of the Isaurian Emperor as able military men. Ffowever, he also reiterates

Rr:nciman's opinion of Constantine's character, taking Theophanes' testimony of

Constantine's moral excesses for granted.la Ostrogorsky also faults the

10
Vasiliev, Historv of the Bvzantine Emoire, 238.
11
ibid,23g.
12
s. Runciman, Byzantine civilization. Edward Arnold publ; London (1933),43.
13
Runciman,212.

-
9

Emperor's lack of fore-sight in allowing Rome and the Empire's titular Itaiian

holdings to drift into the orbit of the Frankish court.ls

Ostrogorsky demonstrates his familiarity with the Arabic writers,

pointing out that Tabari's historical work is of great value to the Byzantinist.

Flowever, having said that, he appears to have relied primarily on Theophanes

and Nikephorus.l6

Louis Bréhier's 1946 work Vie et mort de Byzance, saw the importance of

the Isaurian Emperors to be irì.: " . . . halting the disintegration of the Empire, and

in protecting it from invasions."77 Yethe faults both father and son for causing

religious strife: " . . . at a time when every dogmatic quarrel had ceased and

religious peace seemed assuted."l8 lconoclasm, brought into being by Leo and

made more rigorous by Constantine, was to complicate the task of maintaining

the Empire in the face of its enemies and ultimately, to bring about the loss of

Italy and the West.

Milton Anastos believed that Leo and Constantine could only do as they

did concerning iconoclasm. He felt that the Isaurians were acting from the

staunch conviction that the worship of icons endangered the future of the

la
Ostrogorsky,1,49.
ts
ibid, 152.


ibid, 131.

17
Bréhier,52.

"ibid 52.
i0

Empire. Thus, as devout insÍuments of God's will, they had no choice but to

attempt to correct the error in the faith. Although Anastos did portray

Constantine as an able soldier, his primary purpose was to place the issue of

iconoclasm in its proper context.le

More recently, Stephen Gero has attempted to shed new and more

favourable light upon the Isaurians by working with the oriental sources.2o He is

interested primarily in dogmatic issues, however certain aspects of his approach

are of value. While he met with only limited success in his efforts and certain

methodological difficulties are apparent in his work, Gero's original supposition

is valid. The oriental material can be of great value in an understanding of any

aspect of the reigns of Leo III and Constantine V.

Irr The Byzantine Revival, W. Treadgold focuses upon the resurgence of

the Empire in the ninth century under such rulers as Nicephorus I (802-L1), and

Theophilus (829-a\.21 Ttris, in turn,led to the powerful and r¡nited Byzantium

of the tenth century military emperors. Treadgold sees the actions of the

Empress lrene, both during the reign of her son Constantine VI (780-9n and in

her own right (797-802), as being the first sign of recovery for the Empire and the

te
M.V. Anastos,"Iconoclasm and Imperial Rule, TlT-842," Cambridge Medieval
History. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge (1966), c.3, v .4, pt.1,, 61..
2o
S. Gero, Iconoclasm During the Reign of Leo IIL and Iconoclasm During the Reign of
Constantine V. See also "The Legend of Constantine V as Dragon-Slayer," Greek. Roman
and B)¡zantine Studies. 19, (1978),155-159, in which Gero further develops his thesis that
Constantine has been maligned unduly by Theophanes.
:1
W. Treadgold, The Bvzantine Revival. Stanford University Press, Stanford, 1988.
1,1

precursor of the resurgence to follow. He is silent concerning Leo III, but

follows the standard assessment of Bury and Bréhier in summarizing

Constantine V's achievements:

The result of Constantine's reign of thirty-five years


were not particularly impressive. In his many
campaigns against the Bulgars and Arabs he
suffered only one or two major defeats, but he did
no lasting damage to either enemy and gained no
territory for his empire. During his reign central
Italy including Rome , slipped from the empire's
possessiory leaving Byzantium and the West
increasingly estranged from one another.
Constantine did amass a large amount of gold,
which he spent líberally on his army, but
accomplished this only by limiting other spending
strictly and by confiscating the property of
iconophile monasteries. His enforcement of
iconoclasm made enemies of most men of rank and
education and little art and very little literatu¡e was
produced during his reign.z

Treadgold faults Constantine for maintaining a strong military at the expense of

other concerns at a time when the Empire's future was by no means assured,. In

contrast, he praises the Empress Irene for furning the army over to bureaucrats

and for paying exorbitant bribes to hold the Arabs across the Taurus.

J.F. Haldon has analysed Isaurian military fortunes under Leo and

Constantine with specific emphasis upon the frontier district and the effect of

constant raid and counter-raid. In Haldon's assessment, Leo was barely able to

22
Trcadgold,7.
1,2

maintain an imperial presence in eastern Asia Minor. Offensively, Leo was

limited to a single significant victory at Akroinon in 740,which Haldon believes

was of merely symbolic importance.æ Concerning Constantine, Haldon points

out that his victories against the Arabs were largely as a result of the distraction

provided by the Abbasid Revolution. Haldon claims that after the revolution the

Abbasid regime came to accept the existence of the Byzantine Empire and thus

reduced the milítary pressure along the Caucasus border.2a

As may be seen from the preceding pages, the Isaurian emperors have

generally been treated in the light of their religious programs. This view has

often led to a negative assessment of the reigns of Leo and Constantine entirely.

I¡Vhile it is certainly the case that iconoclasm was an unpopular stand for the

emperors and did cause them difficulties, it does not necessarily follow that the

other policies pursued were also failures. In relation to the military situation in

the eighth century this is especially the case. Neither Leo nor Constantine can

realistically be faulted for the inability to conquer the Caliphate, or even for the

Ioss of Italy and Rome. The genius of the Isaurians lay in their ability to perceive

what was within the realm of the possible and to strive to accomplish it. It will
be demonstrated that Leo pursued a cohesive policy concerning the Arab Wars:

a policy which benefitted the Empire and one which the Empire was capable of

231.F.
Haldon, Byzantium in the Seventh Centurv. Cambridge University Press,
Cambridge, England, 1990, 84.

'n w,94.
73

achieving. By Constantine's reign matters had changed. It was possible for

Constantine to take the offensive in a limited way and to demonstrate to the

Muslims that Asia Minor no longer was so accessible as it once had been. The

analysis which follows will attempt to delineate the military programs of first

Leo and then Constantine, as well as to determine the success or failure of these

programs.
14

m
BYZANTINE SOURCES

I.r order more fully to conprehend the relationship of the various sources

to each other and to Theophanes, a greater understanding of the writers

themselves and of their historical and historiographical context is necessary.

First Theophanes: the best known of the Byzantine chroniclers that deal

with the eighth century, he was a monk, born sometime betweenZ12-60.2s FIis

family was respected, pious and probably iconophile. Constantine V himself

supervised the young Theophanes' education. Theophanes later became a

spatharios (a minor court official), and then shortly after the death of Leo fV

(780), when monks were no longer immediately suspect as iconophiles, he

founded a monastery near Sigriane. There he lived in poor health until 815-816,

which saw the outbreak of a new bout of iconoclasm. Punished for his

iconophile sentiments and obstinancy, he was imprisoned and later exiled to

Samothrace. He died there in 818 and subsequently was revered as a martyr.

2s
The biography of Theophanes presented here draws upon the more detailed one
provided by H. Turtledove, The Chronicle of Theophanes, University of Pennsylvania
Presr Philadelphia (7982), vü-ix.
15

There is no evidence to suggest that Theophanes produced any work

other than the Chronographia. He wrote within the tradition of the chronicle.

Chroniclers generally wrote for a less educated audience than did the historians

of Byzantium, and consequently did not use the esoteric and archaic prose

favored by contemporary writers of history. Chroniclers also dealt with a longer

period and did so in less detail, giving a year by year account of events.

Historians generally treated their material chronologically but were not

constrained to grouping their entries under annual headings.

The earliest chronicle to survive is that of ]ohn Malalas, a near

contemporary of Prokopios, the well known historian of |ustinian the Great.

Whereas Prokopios confined his record primarily to the events of the reign of

]ustinian and recorded these events in great detail, Malalas' chronicle begins

with the creation and continues to the death of Justinian I (14 November 565).

Turtledove describes lhe modus operandi of Byzantine historians such as

Prokopios thus: "Byzantine historians dealt with discreet churks of time, usually

a half century or less, which they treated with considerable detail".2ó TTìe

historian took it upon himself to address the questions raised by the text

concerning the events described, their causes and effects. Byzantine chroniclers

were rarely troubled by such matters, preferring instead to set down the

information with little attention to its causation or to ascribe causation to divine

26 ibid, ix.
1.6

judgement.

Theophanes' Chronosraphia rarelv has entries of more than a few

hundred lines per yeaî, and often considerably less. It deals with the period

284-813 4.D., from the accession of Diocletian up to the death of Michael I.

Turtledove believes that Theophanes wrote the Cfuonographia specifically as a

continuation of the Chronicle of George the Synkellos, another monk who began

his ch¡onicle with the time of Adam and had reached 284 A.D. by his own death

(c.810-11).2' Tlne date of completion for the Chronographia is not known with

absolute certainfy, however it must have been after 813, the terminus post quem of.

the work, and before 81-8,and the death of Theophanes.2s Up to the year 602,

Theophanes is dependant on extant sources; however, for the period from

602-813 none of the original writings which Theophanes may have consulted has

survived, indeed few sources from this critical period have survived the

dislocations of the seventh century, the iconoclastic purges of the eighth, and the

reaction of the iconophiles in the ninth.2e The period of interest for the present

27
ibíd,xi.
28
Turtledove believes that the Chronographia must have been written after 815, based
on Theophanes' statement on the current iconoclastic activity of the then reigning þut
unspecified) monarch, xi. This would coincide with the resurgence of iconoðhsmunder
læo V in 815.

2e
Turtledove, xv; who also notes that: "later Byzantine Chroniclers, even such eminent
men as George Kedrenos in the eleventh century, and John Zonaras in the twelfth, seemed
to have used Theophanes as their guide rather than the primary sources he himself
employed"; iùid, xi. He further mentions that Theophanes was known to the West as
early as the second half of the ninth century in a Latin translation; ibid, xvüi.
17

study is from the early years of the eighth century, which saw the rise of the

future Emperor Leo If[, to the death of his son Constantine V 1r.775.

This period of intense conflict over the use of icons in Christian worship

was also a crucial period in the expansion of the Islamic territories and in the

continued survival of the Byzantine Empire. Due to Theophanes'intense loyalty

to the icons and the equally rigorous iconclasm of the Emperors in questiory one

has to be sceptical of Theophanes' treatment of these emperors. This is doubly

important when deaiing with the final period of the Chronographia, from the

reign of Constantine V onward. Born sometime in the 750s, Theophanes would

have been raised during the height of Constantine's iconoclasm. Thus

Theophanes' greatest source for these years is his own memory of the reign of

the man he villifies in his work.

Concerning the period prior to that of his own lifetime, Theophanes

possesses some surprisingly detailed information on Muslim activities in the

eighth century. Turtledove credits this to Theophanes' use of a Greek translation

of a late eighth-century Syriac work which has not survived.3O Had this work

survived it might have been possible to know whether Theophanes intentionally

omitted details concerning the eastern border region, or whether his source was

incomplete.

The only other major Byzantine source for the eighth century is the

30Turtledove, xv.
18

Breviarium of Nikephorus, Pafi.'iarch of Constantinpole. Nikephorus was born

to a prominent Constantinopolitan family about 758.31 His father, Theodore, was

an asekretis (imperial secretary) and an iconophile, who was denounced and

exiled to Pontos in the 760s. Later Theodore was recalled but refused to deny his

iconophile sentiments and was again exiled, this time to Nicaea. Nikephorus

received an education that prepared him for official service, which he entered

and became an asekretis under the future Patriarch Tarasius, probably in the

reign of Leo IV (775-780).

Nikephorus continued in various posts within the civil service until the

death of Tarasius in 806. The Emperor Nikephorus (802-11), after consulting the

leading clergymen of the day and finding no consensus, determined to make

Nikephorus patriarch. Though he was still a layman, Nikephorus was rushed

through the orders of monk, deacon, presbyter and bishop and was confirmed as

patriarch on Easter Day of 806. He remained patriarch urder Michael Rhangabé

(81L-13), but was removed in 815 by Leo V (813-20), when he refused to

acquiesce to a new bout of iconoclasm. Nikephorus retired to a monastery north

of Chuysopolis but soon after was forced to move to the monastery of St.

Theodore's. Michaeln @20-29) offered him the opportunity of return to the post

of patriarch on the condition that he remain silent concerning icons. Nikephorus

3t
The folllowing biography of Nikephorus is abstracted from Mango's introduction to
his translation of Nikephorus, Patriarch of Constantinople, Short Histor)¡, trans. C.
Mango; Dumbarton Oaks texts no.10; Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection,
Washington,D.C. 1990; 1-16.
19

refused, continuing to lead the ljfe of a monk until his death in 828.

In addition to the Breviarium, Nikephorus wrote several other works,

three of which have survived. Two are polemical pieces which, says Mango:

. . . contain a certain amount of historical information


designed to demonstrate that the period of
iconoclasm and, in particular, the reign of
Constantine V was a time, not of success and
prosperity, but of calamity...32

Both contain largely the same material as is found in the Breviarium, though

some minor items appear which are of little interest presently. Nikephorus also

composed a set of cfuonological tables, but his most historically significant work

is the Breviarium itself.

The Breviarium treats the period from the accession of Phokas (602-10) to

the marriage of the future Leo fV to Irene in769.æ In contrast to Theophanes,

who wrote within the tradition of the ch¡onicle, Nikephorus wrote a history and

aimed for a more sophisticated audience. Thus, he was bound by his use of this

genre to appear to be more objective in his treatrnent of the period.s

32
These are the Third Antirheticus (PG 100,493 Dff;, and the unpublished Refutatio et
aversio. Mango,2.
33
Two redactions of this work are extant. The Vatican MS is the more complete of the
two, covering the period stated above. The London MS ends abruptly lr.713 with the
overthrow of Phillipicus (711-13). Both MSS are completely silent concerning the reign of
ConstantinelY (641-668). See Nikephorus, Short Historv. trans. Mango,5.
U'

34 g
1bld, .
20

Nikephorus' purpose in writing the Breviarium seems to have been to continue

the work of Theophylact Simokatta whose work ends in 602.3s There is no

internal evidence that can provide a date for the writing of the Breviarium.36

Mango suggests that Theophanes and Nikephorus relied upon a cofiunon

source for their treatment of the period under discussiory one which he claims: ".

. . there is no reason to believe . . . was anti- iconoclastic.3T He also remarks upon

the oddity that, even though Theophanes and Nikephorus drew upon the same

sollrce/ they were writing entirely independently of one another. Th"y were

close contemporaries, of the same ecclesiastical persuasion and in the civil

service within the capitai at the same time. Mango speculates that both works

remained uncirculated for some time after their completion and that the

schoiarly circle of the Empire may not have been as close as modern researchers

might like to believe.3s

The Cfuonographia and the Breviarium provide for the student of

3s
lbid-7; in tum citing P.J. Alexander, The Patriarch Nikephorus of Constantinople,
Oxford (1958), 157-8. Theophylact of Simokatta wrote a history which continued that of
Prokopios and ended with the murder of Maurice and the usulpation of Phokas n 602.
see, Theophylacti Simokattae Historiae. ed. C. de Boor (Leipzig,1ß97).

36
Mango tentatively suggests a date sometime in the 7B0s; p.1,2.

37
ibid,9; who adds, " From 668 to the end, the Breviarium and Theophanes run in
parellel channels and are quite clearly derived from the same source. To be more precise,
there is very little in Nikephorus that is not also in Theophanes, whereas the latter
includes a considerable body of other material, some of it Near Eastern in origin . . . The
source was certainly a chronicle composed in the capital and it appeats to have been
favorable to læo III.", 15.

"¡bid 12.
21,

Byzantine history a significant amount of information with which to analyze the

events of the eighth century. Flowever, due to the inteltectual predilections of

Theophanes and Nikephorus, their texts must be considered highly suspect

concerning the iconoclast Emperors. With the exception of a few minor sources

such as the Chronography of Gregory abu Faraj (Bar Hebraeus, d.1286) and the

sparse hagiographical records which survived the crosscurrents of censorship at

work in eighth and ninth century Byzantium, the dearth of other Byzantine

sources forces one to go farther afield and look beyond the boundaries of the

Empire.
22

IV

SOURCES - MUSLIM

There are no works extant of Muslim ch¡oniclers who were contemporary

with Theophanes. Flowever, several works that are now lost have been

preserved by later authors in an abbreviated form. The course of Muslim

historiography is far removed from that of the Byzantines; an explanation is

necessary.

Early Muslim historiography was composed largely of native Arabic

elements. The earliest historical writings consist of what Somogyi calls: "the

collections and commentaries of the narratives, customs,and institutions of Arab

paganism (al-akhbar) on the one hand, and the geneological studies (al-ansab)

on the other".3e With the conversion of the Arabs to Islam the already ttriving
written traditions of 'al-akhbar' and 'al-ansab'were adopted and modified to

become one pursuit with two foci - traditions conceming the life of the Prophet

Muhammad and those recording the first wars of Islam.a0

From this interest in the rise of the Prophet and of Islam evolved the

hadith. Lewis defines hadith as:

3e
Somogyi ,1. de, "The Development of Arabic Historiography", Journal of Semitic
Studies. IIl, 1958, 37 4.

40
ibiù gr4.
23

traditions purportedly to preserve the decisions,


actions and utterances of the Prophet, a vast
heterogenous assemblage of individual traditions,
each relating some detail of the precept and practise
of the Prophet and varying greatly in provenance/
content, and plausibiiity. at

These hadith were extraQuranic traditions which were legitimized in

practise by an isnad. In fact, hadith are made up of an isnad and a matur. The

isnad is a chain of authorities which originally reached back to some source that

was in the presence of the Prophet, and who ostensibly is the one speaking in the

matn. Williams gives an excellent example and decription of the hadith. isnad

and matn:

[Buhkara set down from Abd a1-Azizibn Abdallah


from Ibrahim ibn Sad from his father from Abdallah
ibn ]afar ibn Ali Talibl: "I saw the Prophet, God bless
him and give him peace, eating fresh dates with
cucumbers." The part within the brackets is the
isnad; that within the quotation marks is the matn.
Change the matn and we have a different hadith.4

Early Muslim chroniclers used the same hadith format of isnad and matn

a1
Læwis, 8., ed. Islam: From the Prophet Mohammed to the Capture of Constantinople,
Oxford University Press: Oxford, 1974, Volume 2,xvä.
4 Al-Tabari, The Earl)¡ Abbasid Caliphate, trans.
J.A. Williams; Cambridge University
Press, Cambridge (1988), vol.1 of 2,xvi;
These hadith are the basis of Muslim jurisprudence, just as the Quran is the basis
of Muslim law. An individual who interprets the hadith is called a faqih, and may inspire
a foìLowing who hold to the same intelpretation. ln this way, Muslim schools of law
formed. Tabari inspired one such school; his enemies, the Hanbalites, were the followers
of another, founded by Ahmad ibn Hanbal.
24

when they wrote history.4 Thus, a typical entry in a Muslim record purports to

be an eyewitness account of the subject described. The legitimacy of the hadith

is judged by the authenticify of the isnad. However, Muslim historians and

chroniclers who made use of the hadith style generally included any hadith

which had at least a plausible isnad. Thus it is not uncorunon to find different

accounts of the same subject in the work of one chronicler; because the clrronicler

could not determine that one isnad was obviously false.

To summarîze, a chapter in a Muslim ch¡onicle of the hadith variety

consists of a number of hadith - each made up of an isnad and a matn - which

relate to the year's events. Often one or more of the hadith concerns the same

subject, as observed by various principals or as related by different

intermediaries. Arguably, some continuity might be lost in such a format;

however, to a reader knowledgeable in the field of Arabic historiography, it

provided a system of references to which he could address himself, in much the

same way that modern footnoting provides a method for the corroboration of

information. At the end of each yearly entry, the chronicler would often include

other pieces of information, generally in a comparatively superficial fashion,

whichhave no isnad, and are often the remarks of the chronicler himself.

L:r the early tenth century 4.D., Muslim historiograPhy underwent a

n' Lewis,
I€tae Volume 2,xx, suggests that the adoption of hadith by historians and
ctuoniciers was encouraged by the early Ummayad rulers, who wished to increase the
authority of their position through association with the Prophet.
25

fwther development. Islamic historical works began to take the form of a

continuous narrative without any use of the isnad and matn, or of individual

hadith. The writer took the various hadith with which he was familiar and

transformed them into a single homogeneous account which best represented the

information in his possession. Neither Baladhuri (d.892) nor Tabarí (d.923) were

of this traditiory but were almost certainly familiar with it. Masudi (d.956) had

already adopted this style. Thus, by the beginrring of the fourth century of

Islam, Muslim chronicles began to appear similar to their Byzantine

counterparts.

Arabic chronicles were usually arranged as arnals; however, the

geography - which is also of great interest to historians - was organised

somewhat differently. In these texts the author organized his subject district by

district, relating information of interest about the major geographical features of

each region. Within the account of the region events generally were dealt with

chronoiogically, but dates were provided less often and the entries were not

arranged as annals.

Although Arabic chroniclers rarely wrote geographies, the two fields

were closely related. Arabic geographers were interested primarily in what

would today be called human geography and often recorded details of the

cultures, local history and various anecdotal stories of a region rather than

inforrnati.on concerning its physical landscape. Baladhuri was a geographer and

his interest in the history of the Caucasus provides theByzantine historian with
26

valuable information conceming the frontier. The anonymous Hudud al-Alam

(dating to the tenth century A.D.) is also of use in this regard. With an

understanding of the basis of Islamic historiograpl;ry, it is now possible to

discuss the various Muslim works and authors under consideration.

Ahmad ibn-Yahya ibn-Jabir al-Baladhuri (d.892) was of Persian ancestry

and a native of Baghdad. His grandfather was a court functionary to the Caliph

Harun al-Rashid. Ahmad himself was a confidant of the Caliph al-Mutawakkil

as well as to Caliph al-Mustain, and tutor to the son of another, al-Mutazz. In

addition to being a distinguished poet and satirist, Baladhuri wrote Futuh

al-Buldan, which itself was a condensation of a larger work of urknown date

which is now lost. He also wrote two other works, one of which survives only in

fragmentary form and the other is no longer extant.e

The Futuh al-Buldan is written in the hadith tradition, but occasionally

adopts the style of the continuous narrative which became popular in the

following century. It records the Muslim conquests of the seventh, eighth and

ninth centuries, and is arranged geographically rather than maintaining a strict

chronological format.

44
Al-Baladhuri, The Origins of the Islamic State. Columbia University Press, New York,
1.9L6,p.7;
For the sake of clarity, I will attempt to render the Arabic or Persian names as
clearly as possible into English, without the inflectionary notations and with as few
patronymics as is possible. I will also attempt to regularize the references to various
individuals. As an example: The Caliph al-Mansur (754-75) is known to Theophanes as
Abd Allah; Tabari refers to him only rarely as al-Mansur (the name he chose when he
became caliph), instead using 'Abu Ja'far' (and very rarely 'Abd Allah'). It should also be
noted that'b.'is the recognized abbreviation of ib¡, (son of).
27

Abu ]a'far Muhammed lbn ]arrir al-Tabari was born of a Persian family of

considerable importance at Amul on the Caspian Sea in Tabaristan in 838. He

had an interest in the hadith from an early age and moved to the town of Rayy to

further his study. At age 30, Tabari settled in Baghdad to collect more hadith.

From there he moved to Basra, then on to Wasit and then to Kufa. While in Kufa

he is said to have learned over L00,000 hadith. He returned to Baghdad to

continue his education in hadith, and to investigate the teachings of the various

law schools. Later Tabari moved to Syria and then to Egypt in867, where he

studied local law. After returning to Baghda d tn 870-7L, Tabari became

embroiled in a dispute with a powerful group of fanatical followers of Ahmad b.

Hanbal (another man famous for his knowledge of hadith; d. 855). This

escalated into a large-scale mob action on the part of the Hanbalites, which it

took thousands of troops to quell. Tabari's life was made extremely difficult by

the Hanbalites, who slandered him and kept scholars from seeking him out as a

source of hadith. He went into hiding, and it was during this enforced seclusion

that Tabari wrote. Eventually the furor died down and he was able to return to

public life. His opinion was much sought as a jurist and hadithist. He died in

Baghdad n923.

Tabari wrote extensively in the field of the Tafsir or commentaries on the

Quran. He also contributed Latif al-Oawl fi Ahkram Shara'i al Islam, a legal

compendium based on the teachings of the school he founded. His historical

r,uork, Ta'rikh al-rusul wal-muluk ('The Book of Information on Prophets and


28

Kings') records the period from creation to his own time and was written in the

tradition of the hadith which affected virtually every aspect of Tabari's hÍe.as

Ahmad b. Ishaq Al-Yaqubi, also known as Ibn Wahdih, contributed both

a geography and a history which have survived. A-l-Buldan is a geographical

text which describes the state of the Caliphate and its neighbors in Yaqubi's own

time (c. 900 A.D.).46 FIis historical work, Al-Tarikh, has much to add to the data

presented by the other Arab autorities, often preserving details available

nowhere else.aT

Various other Muslim sources are of more limited utility for the present

studv. The anonvmouslv authored Hudud al-Alam is an Arabic eeosraphv of

Persian extraction dating to the tenth century. Minorsky suggests that it is the

work of a "'cabinet scholar' and not a8


a traveller." Another geography, the

KkLitab al-U)¡un ('The Book of Springs'), also contributes to an analysis of

Byzantine-Arab military interaction. From an eleventh century Spanish

45
Published as Tabari, Annales, ed. M. J. de Goeje, et. al. læiden, 1879-190L, L3 vols.
The English translation of the text is presented by: State University of New York Press in
38 Volumes with various translators and editors. Henceforth, these volumes will be cited
by translator and page number. Another translation of the period 754-809 has been
provided by l. e. Williams: al-Tabari, The Earl)¡ Abbasid Caliphate. trans. J. A. Williams.
Cambridge University Press: Cambridge,7988. 2 vols.
a6
Al-Buldan, ed. M.J. de Goeje, læiden, 1892. Translated as l.es Pa)¡s, G. Wiet, Paús, L937.
47
Al-Tarikh, ed. M.T. Houtsma, Leiden, 1883. Al-Tarikh is available ouside of Arabic
only through Brooks in exce{pted portions of the text. All of Brooks' references to Yaqubi
(or, Ibn Wadhih, as Brooks calls him) are to Al-Tarikh. E.W. Brooks, "The Arabs in Asia
Minor from Arabic Sources, 641,-750",IH918 (1898) 782-208.
aB
Minorsky dates the compilation of the text to 372 A.H. (9S2 A.D.), Hudud al-
Alam, xiv.
29

manuscript, the text survives in only partial form. The extant portion of the

Kkritab al-Uvun begins in705 A.D. and is, according to Brooks, the sole

preservator of: " . . . several valuable works relating to the period."ae

From the above analysis, it is apparent that the addition of the A¡abic

-sources is of inestimable value to any assessment of the reign of the Isaurian

Emperors. It remains now to conduct such an assessment.

ae
Brooks, "Arabs in Asia Minor, 641-750," 182.
30

LEO Itr

Leo Itr assumed the imperial purple on17 March 717,bfinging to an

end a rapid and violent succession of emperors which saw six different reigns

in twenty-two years (695-71n. It is necessary to discuss briefly the turbulent

time prior to Leo's accession in order to understand fully his accomplishment.

Officially the Empire had been at peace with the Caliphate since the

failure of the four year siege of Constantinople by the Arabs in 678.

Circumstances forced the Caliph Muawiya to sue for peace in order to allow

the armies of Islam to recover from the disaster. Muawiya's successor, Yazid

(680-83), saw no reason to alter matters since much of his might was involved

in putting down a revolt in the East. Upon Yazid's death, civil war erupted

until Marwan established supremacy, passing the Caliphate on to his son, Abd

al-Malik, when he died in 685.

Abd al-Malik promptly renewed the treaty with Byzantium under the

original terms; he then set about healing the internal divisions of the Caliphate,

suppressing a series of annual rebellions until 691-2. It was at this time that

relations grew strained between the two realms. Abd al-Malik attempted to

continue amicable relations with the Emperor ]ustinian II, the successor of

Constantine IV. Theophanes attributes renewed hostilities to the foolishness of

the new Emperor, but whatever the ïeason, the Empire and the Caliphate met
31

on the battlefield of Sebastopolis in 692-9. The outcome was a defeat for the

Empire which in turn caused Sabbatios, the ruler of Armenia, to renounce

imperial clientship and transfer his allegiance to Abd al-Malik in the following

year (692-3). Theophanes concludes his entry for that year by saying: From
"

then on the Agarenes [the Arabs], growing bolder, ravaged Romania'"s0

Theophanes records renewed annual raids into Byzantine territory

beginrLing ín 694-5. After ]ustinian's fall from power n 695-6, matters rapidly
grew worse. Sergios, the Patrician of Lazika,revolted against the Empire and

placed himself under Arab rule. In 697-8, after brief resistance, the Muslims

conquered Byzantine Africa. That same year, Apsimar, the Drungarios of the

Kibyraiot theme and commander of the expedition mounted to recover AÍtíca,

seized the Imperial tluone from the ineffectual successor of ]ustinian, Leontios.

under Apsimar, the Empire waged a partially successfuI campaign

against the raids of the Arabs. Though he made no move toward the recovery

of Africa, Apsimar placed Herakleios, a capable military man and brother to

the Emperor, in command of the Caucasus border. Herakleios performed his

duties competently, even managing to take the offensive in 700-1', and routing

the invad.erc in70t-2 and 704-5. Flowever, he was not able to stem the tide of

raiders. Taranton (Tarandos) was captured and settled 1n701-2- Tn702-3, aI-

Massissa (Mopsuestia) in Cilicia was rebuilt, fortified and garrisoned. A1-

5o Theopharres,64.
32

tsaladhuri notes: "The Muslims had never lived in this town before."sl Lr

addition to these inroads, some time between 690 and 705 Kaisariyyah and

Ascalon were also refortified by the Muslims.s2

Meanwhile events beyond the border were also beginrLing to go against

the Empire. The region of Fourth Armenia went over to Arab rule in 7024.æ

When the Armenians attempted to return to the Byzantine fold the next year,

they were unsuccessfut and brutally punished by their Arab masters. Thus,

with the return to power of ]ustinian II, the Empire had lost the Armenians

and Lazikians as allies in addition to surrendering four strategically important

sites in the Caucasus.

]ustinian's second reign did nothing to slow the rapidly worsening

bord.er situation. 1n705-6,the Empire was invaded in force by the brothers

Maslamah and Hisham b. Abd al-Malik. Tabari records Maslamah's

destruction of a large Byzantine army at Susanah (Sision) near al-Massissa.s

He went on, either in the Same year or the next, to conquer Tuwanah (Tyana),

while Hisham is said to have taken the unidentified fortresses of Buluk, al-

s1 Baladhuri,255.

52 According to Hitti, Kaisariyyah is Caesarea Mazak<a; Baladhuri,219' Ascalon may


by Arkaila, which is only a few miles from Caesarea Mazaka.
s. The terrn 'Fourth Armenia' is used by Theophanes to refer to that part of Armenia
outsid.e of the bounds of the Empire; Theophanes, 69. It does not aPPear that he is
overly conscientious in such notàtion, occásionally simply using Armenia when he
obviously refers to regions beyond lmperial control'
s4 Tabarí, Hinds,134.
JJ

Akhram, Bulus and Qumqum.ss Baladhuri aiso records the fall of Tuwanah

but under 707-8,\Mhile Theophanes places itl-:r709-L0. For the present

plrrposes the precise dates of the events are not as important as their sequence.

On this Tabari is clear, The conquest of Tuwanah and the variously named

citadels paved the way for a major invasion through Cilicia and deep into the

hinterland of the Empire itself in the period immediately after the actions

outlined above.s6

By the following yeat,these possessions were apparently well enough

under control to allow Maslamah and at-Abbas b. al-Walid b. Abd al-Malik to

lead forces into Cilicia,Isauria and beyond. Maslamah took Hiraklah

(Herakleia) and continued into Isauria where Tabari states that he conquered

the fortress of Suriyah (the citadel of Isaura or an unnamed fort within Isauria

itself). Masiamah then headed, for Ammuriyyah (Amorion) where he defeated

55 Tabari, Hinds, 134; Hinds is obviously correct in his belief that there are
chronological problems here. Tabari lists the conquest of Tuwanah under both 705-6
and706-1. Unãer the latter entry Tabari gives the captured fortresses as Qusta¡tin,
al-Ghazala and al-Akhram; Tuwanah/Tyana is mentioned as the conquered city in
both entries, but Buluk, Bulus and Qumqum are given only in the first. Qustantin is
Constantine, north-west of Edessa. The rest defy identification and one or more may
be altemate names for another in the grouP - Bulus and Buluk, for example'
Qumqum may be the Byzantine fortréss of Komacha-ani/Kamachon (generally known
to the Arab sources as Kamkh), but the location does not fit the described events'
st For simplicity, Tabari's chronology and sequence of events will be accepted with
reservation. Tabari's record is the most complete in addition to being the most
confused. Interestingly enough, a similar chronological inconsistency may be found
when comparing the entries fór the siege of Constantinople in 716-1'8' Perhaps the
sources wfrictr Theophanes, Tabari and the others had to deal with were so numerous
and contradictory as to render dates essentially meaningless.
34

a Iar ge Byzantine force.sT

At-Abbas is credited with the taking of al-Budandon (Podandos) and

Adhruliyyah (Dorylaion). This could have been accomplished in one of two

ways. He could easily have achieved both objectives travelling with

Masiamah, who would have had to pass Podandos to get to Herakleia and was

well on his way to Dorylaion when he defeated the Byzantines at Amorion. If

Amorion withstood Maslamah, it would be quite plausible to leave a blockade

around the city while another force continued on to assault Dorylaion. Al-

Abbas met and routed another Byzantine army and took the city itself.

It is also possible that Al-Abbas set off north from Podandos while

Maslamah headed west. Al-Abbas could then have taken Qammudiyyuh

(Kamouliana) and ventured on to Dorylaion and an expected rendezvous with

Maslamah. According to Tabari, Maslamah was the commander to take

Kamouliana, but it is possible that Tabari is misinformed on this point; also the

two pronged attack conforms to a known Muslim raiding practice.s8

Altematively, Maslamah could have taken Kamouliana on his return to Syria,

heading east then south to avoid the difficutty of having to provision his

troops off the same settlements which were dislocated or raided on the

5?
Tabari, Hinds, 1,46; lt is not recorded whether Amorion fell.
ss
Al-Yaqubi provides no significant details for this year. But he records the use of
the two-prõnged attack on several later occasions. For 723-4 A.D.: "Abd-al-Rachman,
the son óf Sot,orno.t, the Khalbi, made a raid on the south in the summer; and
Uthman, the son of Chayyan, the Murri, made a raid upon the north in the summer."
(Brooks, "Arabs in Asia Minor, 641-750," 197-8. Similar entries appear for the years
726-7 artd729-30.
35

westward march.

In the decade which followed, the forces of Islam did not falter in their

assault upon Byzantine territory. From 708-9 to the second siege of

Constantinople (776-8) only one year did not see a significant Arab raid upon

the Empire. In 71,0-1,1, Susanah (Sision) was abandoned by its imperial

inhabitants who, says Tabari: " . . . migrated to the inner part of the Byzantine

territory."se In the next year al-Abbas took Samastiyyah, Maslamah conquered

Masah and three forts near Melitene, and Marwan b. al-Walid reached

Khanjarah.'o Widespread raiding and the fall of Antakiyah followe d n7I23.61

Hiraqlah fell for the second time a year later. The incessant raiding continued

until the beginning of the second siege of Constantinople rn71'6.

According to Theophanes, as early as 686-7, many of the " . . ' cities of

the heights . . ." were already in Arab possession.ó2 Theophanes' assessment

5e Tabari, Hinds, L82.

'0 Samasteia is identified by Brooks ('The Arabs in Asia Minor', p.193n') as


Mistheia; but Hinds notes that Ibn al-Athir has Sabastiyya, which could be Byzantine
Sebasteia, fifteen miles north-west of the Pass of Melitene; Hinds equates Khanjarah to
Gangra and Masah to AmaseiaiTabari, Hinds,184.
6' Theophanes tells us that this is Pisidian Antioch; his entry is tn71'Ç5;
Theophanes, Turtledov e, 79.
ut By this phrase, Theophanes probably is referring to the walled citadel-towns
overlooking the surrounding countryside. Many of these citadels were situated so as
to control access to the mountain passes of the Caucasus. They were a part of the
defensive system of the Empire against an incursion into Asia Minor. Caesarea
Mazaka and Arkalla/Ascalon lay approximately 25 miles west on the route from the
pass of Adata, for example. Mopsuestia controls the route to the Cilicia¡ Gates.
These were the two most accessible passes and the ones most often used by the
Muslims invading Asia Minor.
36

may have been premature for the late 680s, but it is evident that the Caucasus

situation deteriorated greatly over the last years of the seventh century and the

early ones of the eighth. By the second decade of the eighth century the Arabs

did hold many of the 'cities of the heights'; so too did they control the access

to the Caucasus passes. Thus the Muslim raiders were able to move virtually

at will within imperial territory. By 71.6, the forces of Islam were operating
well within the realm of the possible in their attempt to take Constantinople'

The sources which report on this momentous event are many, but the

testimony, while reasonably consistent, is troublesome. The most detailed (and

the most confusing) source is that of Theophanes. Nikephorus has little to add

that is not in Theophanes' wotk. Nikephorus has either derived his own

version from Theophanes, or both in turn drew independently from another

source. He often describes events with identical details to Theophanes' own.

I¡l/hile Nikephorus' work is less puzzlingthan Theophanes', this is only the

case because Nikephorus does not include the difficult passages found in the

Chronographia.æ That Theophanes drew upon some source (to which

Nikephorus may also, directly or indirectly, have had access) for the events of

the siege is evident. Turtledove notes that, in describing the siege, Theophanes

63 For this reason, it is possible to forego any further reference to Nikephorus'


version of the siege of 71,6-8. For a discussion of the probability of coÍìmon source
material for Nikeþhorus and Theophanes, see Nikephorus, Short Historl¡. trans. C'
Mango,12-18;
J/

refers to Leo III as: " . . . the pious Emperor . . .".64 This is, as Turtledove

correctly points out, the sort of error that Theophanes could only have made

had he been copying rather carelessly from what was probably a text of a date

significantly closer to the events described and favourable to Leo ltr.

Theophanes' account of the siege provides a good basis for comparison with

other sources which may be used to shed more light on the difficu-lties in the

Chronosraphia.
.+

For the year 71.5-L6, Theophanes records that Maslamah attacked

Constantinople, yet Maslamah did not succeed in doing so until the following

year. While Constantinople must have been his objective, and Theophanes

mentions that preparations had been made for that purpose, it becomes

obvious that Leo, then strategos of the Anatolic theme, was instrumental in

slowing the Muslim advance and delaying the Arab campaign.65

The Arab force of 7L5-16 began the expeditionby moving overland to

Amorion. Suleiman wanted to place Leo on the throne of Byzanttum and

wrote to him to discuss terms.6ó The Arabs taid siege to Amorion and

attempted to negotiate with Leo, but Leo dragged out the talks and escaped a

e Theophanes, trans, Turtledove, SSn; in addition, Leo is more favourably treated


throughout the siege episode than in other passages. This further supports the
possibility of a pro-Leo and probably iconoclastic text which has not survived.
6 Theophanes, trans. Turtledove
,79-80; Theophanes' full account of the campaign is
abstracted in the pages which follow and may be found on p. 82-90.
6 At thís time Leo was at odds with the Emperor Theodosius. Leo had supported
Theodosius'predecessor Artemios. The sifuation was widely known, even Maslamah,
". . . had heard that the Emperor Theodosius hated his general [Leo]." Theophanes,83.
38

trap set for him by Suleiman. Leo was so successful in his efforts that the

siege of Amorion fell apart as the Arab tribesmen withdrew, complaining

about laying a siege instead of raiding lightly-defended and more profitable

places elsewhere.6T

With the enemy gone, Leo refortified Amorion,left men to garrison it

and moved the non-combatants out. The main Muslim force, under

Maslamah, appeared at Amorion just as Leo left for Pisidia. Leo continued the

negotiations for an alliance with Maslamah, at the same time letting Maslamah

know that Amorion had been reinJorced and would not fall easily. Evenfually,

Leo could stall no longer but Maslamah was forced to move on in order to

reprovision his force. He took his army to Akroinon and then captured

Pergamon. But by then it was the end of the raiding season and Maslamah

took his troops back beyond the Imperial border. Leo had effectively diverted

the attack from the Capital.68

Leo took advantage of Maslamah's retreat to travel to Nikomedeia,

where he captured the Emperor Theodosius'son as well as the: " ' . . entite

6TTheophanes,
83.

ut
The significance of the delay should not be underestimated. Theophanes tells us
that Artemios sent emissaries to spy upon the Arabs'preparations and thus was
aware of the coming invasion befõre the death of Al-Watid (late February,71'5,
according to Tabaril Hinds, 21.8;). k is also recorded that Artemios used this
knowledle to improve the defences of the lmperial City by expanding^the fleet,
rebuildin"g wail sãcHons and constructing siege engines; Theophane-s,80' It may well
be that Ló bought the Emperor crucial time io complete the refortifications. As it
turned out, Mas-iamah did not begrn the actual siege of Constantinople until 15
August 777,the year after his encounter with Leo at Amorion'
39

imperial retinue and the palace's leading fígures."óe Theodosius was convinced

by these events to relinquish the tfuone. Leo's route to imperial power was

clear.

Leo was proclaimed Emperor on 17 March 717, even as the Caliphate

began its major campaign with renewed vigour. He again attempted to get

Maslamah to confer with him, but the A¡ab general was rightly suspicious.

Nlaslamah proceed.ed to encamp around the Imperial City and summoned

Suleiman with the rest of the expedition. The siege began on l-5 August777

and lasted a fullyear. The landward sides of the city were blockaded by a

ditch and. rampart. Suleiman arrived on the first of September with L800 ships

fult of supplies and troops. This huge armada was split to find harbour in the

various ports along the Bosporus near Constantinople where they could

effectively seal the city from maritime contact. But unfavourable winds for the

Muslim fleet allowed Leo to send out fire-ships against the vulnerable invaders

and many of the Arab vessels were burned. Crucial provisions and men were

lost and the besiegers could not afford to lose more ships in an attempt to

block access to the city by sea.

Due to the damage done to the naval force and the loss of supplies

incurred thereby, the Arabs faced a winter of hardship, famine and disease.

6e
Theophanes, 34. Atthough Theophanes does not say so, it is to be expected that
there waian army with the Emperorls heir that [.eo either defeated or subomed. It is
unlikely that such a collection ôf personages would have been outside Constantinople
on the main military route while ã major invasion and an untamed strategos roamed
the hinterland.
40

These conditions combined with uncorïunonty cold weather to kill many of the

besiegers as the months wore on. Meanwhile since the A¡ab ships could not

seal off the Cify, provisions could be brought in, and although it would not

have been an easy time for Constantinopolitans, they had only to look beyond

the walls to see true misery.To

With spring came reinforcements and provisions brought by two fleets

from Egypt. The ships were guarded closely and harboured secretly to avoid

a disaster similar to that of the previous year. But the Egyptians of this new

armada rebelled and gave the Emperor enough information that he was able

once again to fire the Arab ships and carry away considerable plunder.

A land army had also been sent to the aid of Maslamah, but it was

ambushed and dispersed on the road to Nikeia. To compound the entire

disastrous venture the Bulgars attacked the besiegers and slaughtered a great

number of them.7l The remainder withdrew and suffered further losses due to
72
storms and other disasters until few refumed to their homes.

Theophanes' tale of unending woe for the forces of the infidel is almost

70
Theophanes, 80, relates that Artemios commanded that all who would stay
within the City walls during the siege should have three years of provisions on hand.
Thus there is little doubt thát those inside the City were better off than the invaders.

" 22,000 according to Theophanes, g0. A confusing passage in the Chronography


of Gregory Abu Faraj may suggest that the Bulgarians were hired by Leoto ettack the
Muslims before the City, Abu Faraj, 108. Ostrogorsky certainly believes that Leo was
the instigator of the Bulgarian attack, Histor)¡ of the Byzantine State, 139.
tt Theophanes states that God's wrath tumed the sea to fue about the fleeing
raiders. Wtite ihis can hardly be accepted as such, the message to be derived fr:om
Éhe entire description of the siege is one of unmitigated disaster for the invaders'
47

too horrific to be believed. When combined with the references to God's

justice and the intervention of the Virgin to save the City, it is apparent that

the version of events that Theophanes has preserved is, to an unknown but

probably considerable extent,legendary. The details concerning Leo are

equatly troublesome. Leo foois two able Arab generals with rather transparent

stalls and stratagems which test the credulity of the reader.73

Yet the story of Leo's trickery is repeated in a series of hadíth preserved

by Tabari. Tabari's version of events is not without its difficulties but it is as

cred-ible as that of Theophanes. Leo ínitiated negotiations uPon the entry of the

Islamic force into the Empire. His intent was simply to bribe the army to

leave Byzantine territory, a long-standing stratagem among the Romans. Leo's

offer of one dinar per soldier was refused and the talks end with no further

trickery. Then Leo convinced Maslamah that, in order to intimidate the

citizens into surrender, he should destroy the provender of the besieging army.

This would serve to demonstrate the intent of the army to storm the walls

rather than settle down to a lengthy siege. Maslamah followed this highly

dubious council and so began the famine mentioned in all sources concerning

the siege.

t'As an example, during the negotiations with Suleiman, Leo reportedly came into
the camp of the enemy with only an escort of three hundred men. He was let free
but knew that the Caliph wanted to capture him. After sending ten times the number
of Leo's own force to sur¡ound him, the Chronograptúa has Leo escape by feigning
that he is going hunting, and instead shifting his camp. When accosted by his
pursuers he is allowed simply to go on his way. Theophanes,S2-3'
42

An alternate version of the event from the same soulce has Leo offering

to deliver the Empire to Suleiman and then tricking Maslamah into allowing

the besieged citizens an opportunity to gather food outside the city proper' In

tl'Lis way, Leo suggested to Maslamah: " . . . the peopte would believe that

Leo's word and Maslamah's were one and that they were safe from being

captured."Ta Once the citizens were provisioned, Leo: ". . . began to act in a

hostile manner, having deceived Maslamah by means of a trick that would

shame even a woman."7s This in some way led to the famine and the dire

consequences suffered by the besiegers.

Obviously neither Theophanes nor Tabari relate a version of the story

which satisfies the suspicions of the modern reader. The ruses recorded in

either source could hardly have succeeded as they are Presented;yet, it would

appear that there is a tradition, conunon to both Byzantine and Arabic

historiography, that Maslamah was clearly duped by the future Emperor, Leo

m.76

Further corroboration of this supposition is available from the

7a
Tabarí, Powers, 41.
t5
ibid.
tu
As Gero points out, The anonymous Arabic Khitab al Uyun. an eleventh
century Spanish text, probably based upon much earlier eastern sources, also
pt"r"óejthe theme of Leo's deception of Maslamah, as well as his utter scom for the
Mushm commander; Gero, Byzantine Iconoclasm in the Time of Leo IIL 33n.
Also worthy of note ii Gero's mention of the favourable treatment of Leo in
the Armenian source material; material which would have been outside the iconophile
revisionisrn of the post-iconoclastic period, Gero, LeolIL37.
43

Chronography of Gregory Abu Faraj. Gregory records a similar story to those

of Theophanes and Tabari, but with enough differences in detaii to suggest

that it did not draw upon either as a source. Lr Gregory's work, Leo promised

to open the kingdom of Rhomaye to Maslamah in exchange for the throne.

With such backing Leo felt powerful enough to attack the Emperor Theodosius

at Amorion and take him prisoner. From there Leo went to Constantinople

and: " . . . he explained to them that by means of treachery he had turned

back the Arabs. And they were very pleased with him and they made him

king over them."z Maslamah then appeared before the city, but was soon in

dire straits, caught between the forces of the city before him and Bulgar

mercenaries. Famine added to the host of Arab troubles and when the army

eventualiy retreated they were fwther hounded by Imperial forces.

Gregory's version is in many ways the most satisfying of all the sources.

But perhaps the most sensible conclusion is in some amalgam of all the

information available. In any event, the exact details of the situation are not of

paramount importance in an appreciation of Leo's role in the siege. Most

significant is the common idea that is consistent in Theophanes, Tabari and

Abu Faraj: that Leo in some way outmanoeuvred and delayed the superior

forces of the armies of Islam, outsmarted their commanders, and by doing so

placed himself in control of the Byzantine Empire.

In the events of the siege, regardless of how the details are interpreted,

7'
Gregory Abu Faraj, 108.
44

Leo demonstrated a shrewd ability to combine the use of martial power with

negotiation and misd-irection to further his goals. His application of military

force was precisely timed to take advantage of weaknesses within the enemy

camp - weaknesses often created by Leo himself. This precision also extended

to the use of mercenaries and allies. Leo was well aware of the benefits of

having an outside agency fight his battles for him. As Emperor, Leo III

continued to pursue the same policies after the siege of Constantinople -

fighting only when necessary or advantageous and ideally convincing others to

bear the brunt of enemy attack. Leo was not a latter day Herakleios and his

reign is not a story of unending attack and counter-attack. Rather it is one of

alliances of mutual support, of subtle influence exerted upon peoples who had

similar interests and problems to those of Byzantium.

The reign of Leo III did signal the beginning of a new military

relationship with the Caliphate and without this change the Emperor's policy

of ind.irect action would probably have been ultimately unsuccessfut. As

Haldon and Kemedy have noted:

From the 680s to the end of the siege of


Constantinople in 7I7 /8 - except for a short period
between 680-693,when the Caliphate was hindered
by internal troubles, Byzantine forces were
stretched to the point of collapse, or so it would
appear from the accounts of both Muslim and
Byzantine historians.Ts

tt Ninth
J.F. Haldon, H. Kennedy, "The Arab-Byzantine Frontier in the Eighth and
Cenfuries:MiIitaryorganizaiionandSocietyintheBorderlands,.'@
Vizantinoloskog lnstituta. 19 (1980) 82.
45

After the siege the situation was changed. Through a combination of carefully

appiied military pressure and the nurturing of alliances with peoples with a

common cause, Leo was able to fortify the Empire and Pave the way for its

eventual rejuvenation.

The first signs of the changing relationship between Empire and

Catiphate came with the accession of Umar II to the position of Commander of

the Faithful. With his direction in 7L8 that the siege of Constantinople be

called. off Umar adopted a new and more cautious policy concerning the

Byzantine situation. But his change in attitude was not due solely to the status

of the siege itself. Rather it was his concem over repeated attacks made along

the frontier by the Byzantines. With this in mind,Ibn al-Athir relates that

IJmar ordered Turandah (Taranton) abandoned in 71'8-9: ". . . and he [Umar]

ordered them lthe Turandans] to return to Malatyah and left Turandah

unoccupied, through fear of injury to the Moslems from the enemy'"7e lJmar

seems to have felt that the border-towns were too exposed to attack, for he

also considered putling his garrison out and abandoning al-Massissa

(Mopsuestia). Baladhuri notes:

7e
Ibn al-Arhir, in Brooks, lgg 18 (1898) '1.97. Baladhuri adds that Umar had
Turandah destroyed; p.290.
46

[Umar] wanted to destroy the town together with


the forts that lay between it and Antioch saying'I
hate to see the Greeks besieging its people'' When
he, however,learned that the town was built to
check the Greek advance on Antioch, and that, in
case it were destroyed, nothing would remain to
stop the enemy from taking antioch, he desisted "'80

Apparently Leo launched an attack into the region shortly after the siege

of Constantinopte. The above passages suggest that al-Massissa was assaulted

and Turandah at least was threatened.sl Baladhuri also provides an account of

another Byzantine attack, this time uPon Syrian Laodikeia:

In the year 100 l7I8-91 . . . the Greeks made a


descent by sea on the coast of al-Ladhikiyah' They
destroyed the city and took its inhabitants prisoner'
Umar ordered that it be rebuilt and fortified and
asked the Greek 'tyrant' to accept ransom for the
Moslem prisoners.s2

When taken together, these events tell of a significant and apparently

highly successful offensive launched by Leo immediately upon the conclusion

of the siege of Constantinople. Obviously Leo was aware of the vuhrerability

of the Arabs and took advantage of it by assaulting one or more strategically

t Baladhuri,255.
tt They could have been targets of a single campaign, either land or sea-based. It
seems more likely that a two pronged attack was made - with one force moving
through the Cilician Gates and the other through the pass of Adata.
82
Baladhuri,204;he also notes that Yazid II (720-24) increased the size of the
garrison. Yaqubi confirms the attack but states that it occurred while: " . ' ' the
Moslems werã smitten by scarcity, and hunger, and cold. . ." befote the gates of
Constantinople; Brooks,IÞ 18 (1898) 195.
47

important border-towns shortly after a maritime attack upon a city of the

Caliphate. Umar thought the situation desperate enough to pay tribute to the

Byzantines in order to ransom the prisoners and presumably to bribe against

continued attack. That first Umar and then Yazíd saw the necessity of

refortifying and regarrisoning along the vulnerable frontier and sea-coast is a

further measure of a change in the long established støtus quo of Byzantine

military inadequacy.

Under yazíd,U, (720-4) the Caliphate was able to recover somewhat from

the debacle of the siege of Constantinople. Summer campaigns were organised

once more and Muslim victories again began to occur. After no Summer
raids

in7l9-20, a reasonably successful campaign was launched the next year -

resulting in the defeat of. aByzantine field force in Fourth Armenia and the

taking of a city.æ For the year following, Yaqubi mentions that al-Abbas led a

raid into imperial territory only to have his command destroyed piecemeal as

it separated to raid and forage. Another branch of the campaign under

different commanders besieged and took an unnamed fortress.& For 722-3, a

æ
Ibn al-Athir has Dalisa which Brooks suggests might be Dalisandos, THS' 18
(1898) 197. For727-2,Tabari records the samJcommander taking Raslah, which
'!'67. Powers also notes that
Èo*e6 identifies tentatively as Larissa; Tabari, Powers,
another Arab chronicler, al-'Azd.i, gives the city as Awasa, 167n. The l{ritab al-Uyun
records the fall of Muwasa for the-year 7?3-4, Brooks, THS,18,(1898) 198. Since none
of the authorities mentions the fall of more than one city, it is not unlikely that Dalisa'
Raslah, Awasa and Muwasa all refer to the same place' It is also possible, given
the
rather convoluted chronology of these entries, thãt Dalisa and Raslah refer to the
events of one year while Añása and Muwasa correspond to the actions of the next'

&
Yaqubi, Brooks, IHg18 (1.898) 197.
48

minor incusion was made but no details are provided.

InTZg- ,a Muslim army was again caught after having separated into

smaller detachments.ss At least one major detachment was lost to Byzantine

attack. Flowever, another Prong of the campaign succeeded in capturing

I+ramkh and Kuniya.s6 Theophanes' entry for the year contradicts those of the

Muslim authorities. The newly installed Caliph Hisham is said to have led an

attack but apparently: " . . . he withdrew after squandering many of his men'"87

tt Tabari, Powers,192.

86 yaqubi, Brooks,IHS, 18 (1898) 198; Brooks identifies Khamkh as Kamachos


[I(hamacha-ani] and Kuniya as lkonion. It seems somewhat unlikely that no other
io.r.ce would have any reðord of the fall of so significant a city as Ikonion. It is also
worthy of note that Kamacha-ani and Ikonion are not at all adjacent, yet they are
recorded as having been captured by the same force. If lftamkh is correctly
identified as Kamachos/Kamacha-ani, Ikonion would not have been an easy
additional target for the same army. Brooks may wellbe mistaken in this regard, and
Kuniya may cãttespond to some other site more closely sifuated to Kamachos than
Ikonion. Three possible places exist: Ramsay locates a fortress by the narne of Koron
in eastem Cappãdokia; tñis probably corresponds to the major Byzantine milrtary
centre of Kolônia; again, a ráthe. utrtikely piospect for an otherwise unrecorded raid'
More probable is Khome a fortress just east of Malatyah/Melitene.
Conceming Khamkh itself, Éaladhuri relates that it changed !*d: continually
over the period.rnder review and was in Byzantine hands until Maslamah retook it
(presumåb|y n723-4). Sometime after this it passed once more to the Byzantines but
was taken again by the Muslims n767; Baladhuri, 289.
87
Theophanes, g5. This entry is unusual in that, by omission, it places Leo in a
better lightìhan would have been the case had Theophanes given mor-e detajl. It is
unlike äreophanes to allow to pass any opportunity of recounting to tfe fuIl extent
the woes of Leo's reign. fhe fatl of lkonion, had Theophanes known of it would have
been a tempting itenifor the monk. Il in fact,Ikonion did fall, then Theophanes'
sources for this year were scant indeed.
49

is
Obviously the different accounts present some difficulfy' Theophanes
relate an
probably referring to the same raid as Taban,but Yaqubi appears to

entirely separate incident. Thus it is possible that the traditional two-pronged

attack was launched by the Muslims with one army heading north
from

Malatyah to attack l{ramacha-ani while the other entered Byzantine territory


not
through the Cilician gates and proceeded to lkonion.Es Ikonion may or may

have fallen and one of the two prongs dispersed into looting parties only
to be

eradicated upon doing so.8e

Whether or not Ikonion was attacked, it is clear from the following entuy

that the Arabs derived no strategic advantage from the year's activities which

carried over to the next season. Fo¡t 724-5,Tabari records a raid- of little

significance. Yaqubi has more detail, stating that the Muslims razed some croPs

and villages in retaliation for the Byzantine destruction of enemy pasture lands'e0

This year's events suggest that the situation was in something of a stalemate with

each side carrying on raids of a very local and limited nature' Yaqubi records
a

similarly unspectacular raid for the following year'

Beginning in726-7,the raids against the Empire became more significant

and extensive, and at first glance aPPeaf to herald a return to the devastating

It Malatyah/Melitene was a staging ground for the annual Muslim raids.

8e
If this is indeed how events occurred then it makes the most sense to assume that the
Ciljcian arm of the campaign proceeded to the environs of Ikonion and, perhaps
blockading the city, setãbõutþiltag*g only to be caught by the Byzantine response'
e0
Tabari, Blankinship, 8; Yaqubi, Brooks,lFIg 18 (1898) 198'
50

attacks of the Cilician campaign just prior to Leo's accession. Tabari,

Theoohanes and the Khritab al-Uvun all tell of the fall of Caesarea to Maslamah,
L

the leader of the ill-fated siege of Constantinople.ei According to Theophanes/

this attack was roughly coincidental with two other assaults. Flisham's son,

Muawiya, reported,ly took his command: " . . . here and there and withdrew."e2
-

Flowever, Theophanes contra dicts himself shortly there af ter, recounting

Muawiya's siege of Bythinian Níkaia:

At around the summer solstice of the tenth Indiction


(after the victory of Leo's partisans) a body of
Saracens attacked Bythinian Nikaia. It had two
emirs: Amr went ahead with L5,000light armed
troops to surror¡nd the unprepared city, while
Muawiya followed with another 85,000. Even after a
long siege and the partial destruction of the walls,
they could not enter Nikaia's sacred precinct of the
honoured and holy fathers because of its inhabitants'
prayers . . . the images of the fathers were set up
there . . . After the Arabs accumulated a large body of
prisoners and booty, they withdrew. God reveals this
to the impious: not because of his piety did Leo
prevail . . . The city of the holy fathers beat back the

el
Tabari, Blankinship,2T,andTheophanes,g6,place the capture n726-7. Khitab
al-U}¡un. rooks,IFIS, 18 (1898) 198, has 725-6. A major attack upon Caesarea does not
lend support to the likelihood of the fall of Ikonion two years earlier; rather it argues
against it. If Ikonion had fallen it would have provided an advantageous ståging point for
further penetration of Byzantine temitory. Thus Muslim raiding in subsequent seasons
should have concentrated in the region of Ikonion itself.
Incidentall/, Abu Faraj records not Caesarea but Neo-Caesarea, however he is
alone in this regard, 109. The Khitab al-Uj¡un locates Kaisari]¡ya between Malatyah
and Khamkh, Brooks, THS 18 (1893) 198. While this locale does not exactly describe
either Caesarea or Neo-Caesarea it is more applicable to the latter.
e?
Theoohanes. g6.
lr'
51

Arabs might by the images in it (which most


definitely werein it) and by their intercession'e3

Nikeohorus' Breviarium also mentions the Nikaia attack (under the year 727-8)
but does not give so negative an impression as Theophanes:

...a nurnerous force of Saracen cavalry again


overran the Roman state' Led by the Saracens
Ameros and Mauias, they came against the chief cify
of Bythinia, namely Nikaia. After besieging it for
some time, they finally departed without having
accomplished anYthing.ea

In these two passages it would appear that Theophanes and Nikephorus are

drawing from the same source. The details and structure are alike, but

Theophanes has obviously fitled out his account with some polemical prose

referring to Leo's issue of the edict against icons (726 A.D.).es Otherwise there is

little to distinguish between the two records other than the somewhat suspect

additional details provided by Theophanes relating the depredations upon the

Nikaians.

e3
Theophanes, gS. Apparently Theophanes is relying upon more than one source
for this et^,t.y, and copying rathei sloppily from them. First Theophanesrelates
Muawiya's uneventfuÍ raid, then he give details which make it obvious that Muawiya's
raid was anything but uneventful.
e4
Nikephorus, Mango , c.61,p.131; Mango provides information which may
corroboraË a less pessilristic version of theliege of Nikaia. An inscriptiol {a1ing to the
time of læo III comme-orates the failure of theArab attack, p.212., citing A.M. Shnieder
and W. Kamapp, Die Stadtmanor von Iznik (Nicaea), (Berlin, 1948) 49,no'29 and p1.50. _

It should also be noted that the Muslim authorities either had no knowledge of the
attack on Nikaia or did not think itworthy of mention; see Nikephorus, Breviarium'
Manga,212.
e5
M.V. Anastos'arguments in Cambridge Medieval History, 4,part 1 (second
See
edition, Cambridge, England, 1966).
52

Gregory Abu Faraj provides information which also suggests that this

year saw a major campaign. Abu Faraj records the siege of Nikaia [albeit tmder

the year 73tl as being immediately after the capture of Gangra in northern

Cappadokia. Yaqubi con-firms the fall of Klrangara in the year 727-8, which

places it very near in time to the Nikaia campaign as dated by Theophanes or

Nikephorus.et Thus a reconstructed season would have a force from Malatyah

and possibly Khamkh moving down the Byzantine military road into the

Imperial hinterland to strike at Nikaia after taking Gangra.eT ff this hypothetical

reconstruction represented actual events then this season was without a doubt

the most devastating for the Byzantines since the accession of Leo III.

Yet as overwhelming as this assault may appear, it is significantly less

disastrous than were the Citcian campaigns of the years prior to the siege of

Constantinople. Nikaia withstood the attack (rather well, if Nikephorus is to be

believed),and Caesarea, Kuniya and Gangra were sacked but not held.e8 The

only actual loss was the citadel of l(hamkh/Khamacha-ani and this fortress

e6
Abu Faraj, 110. Yaqubi, Brooks,Ire, 18 (1898) 199.

eT
It is not unreasonable to assume that Khamkh was at this time in the hands of
the Caliphate. lnterestirgly, Neo-Caesarea is also directly on this route and seems to
fit the probable campaign scheme well. However it is as likely that Caesarea was taken
by a different force under Maslamah while the main force travelled down the northern
rnilitary road under Muawiya.
e8
\Alhatever the identity of Kuniya there is nothing to suggest that it remained in
Muslim hands.
53

wouid remain hotiy contested by the Empire and Caliphate for some time to

come.

The Nikaia campaign should not be viewed as an imperial failure, but

instead as indicative of the stiffening of the defences of the Byzantine frontier' It

must be noted that both Theophanes and Nikephorus stress the awesome size of

the Muslim force involved in the campaign.Ð That the Caliphate could raise an

army several times greater than could the Empire is to be expected' Yet the

Muslims lost men in the field time and again, thus the Byzantine response was

more than simply to shelter behind fortifications. Leo III or the strategos on the

scene was able to organise a sort of guerilla resístance even to such a massive

assault.

In the following season (728-9) the attacks apPear to have been more

en
It is quite easy to imagine an expedition of the scope of the siege of Constantinople
nTIT-8. Éor that army the;crual numbers are unknown, but the naval contingent alone
is said to have involveã a total of 2460 ships - and this comprised only the supplies and
reinforcements for the main army which travelled overland and was itself also reinforced
by that route (Theophanes, SS-89). If the estimate of 1.00,000 men is taken as an accufate
aésessment of the army's strength, the army could well have outnumbered the entirety of
the Byzantine military. While the actual numbers need not be taken literally, it is
apparent that the Byiantine writers were impressgd by the size of the force involved in
tt",ö Nituiu campaign. Obviously, Theophanãs and Nikephorus (or their colrunon source)
intended that tñe size of the inváding force be perceived as overwhelming' Treadgold
notes that the largest Byzantine field force recorded in the eighth cenrury was 20,000 men,
w. State Finances in the Eighth and Ninth
B)'za¡tine state
W. Treadgold, By-za¡tine Nmtn cenrury,
Century, tsast European
East EuroPei
Monographs, Columbia University Press, New York, 1982,92'
- j.
Hatdon, on the basis of tire testimony of lbn Khurradabih's geography, Kitab
al-Masalik wa'l Mamalik. estimates the Byzantine Tagmata (the regular ailny stationed
at ttre iapital) to number no more than 8,Ó00 in the eighth century; "K-udamah Ibn
Djafar ur1¿ tt Garrison of Constantinople," Byzantion, 48 (1978) 80. Yaqubi states
"
that for his own time the thematic army contained only 40,000 cavaky, Les Pays. ch'323'
54

[mited in scope.100 Land and sea raids resulted in the capture of a fortress, but

saw
the Muslims again lost men to aByzantine counter-attack.l0l The next year

the falt of samaluh to Muawiya, and more sea raids.1o2 Another series of
raids in

72g-30was uneventful, though Tabari reports one unit: " . . ' even reaching

burned'le
Qaysariyyah."lo3 In 730-1 lharshanah was captured and Farandiyyah

In either this year or the next, the Byzantines again inflicted a significant

,defeat upon the invaders. Tabari's account is the most informative: "Abd al-

wahhab b. Bukhr went out campaigning with al-Battal in the year II3I73L-21,

but al-Battal's forces were defeated and fell back."lOs In addition to this defeat,

the commander Muawiya was Somehow convinced not to enter Imperial

too
Haldon and Kennedy, "Arab-Byzantine Ffontier," 115, who Poin! oYt-the
See
enoÍnous expense involved in mounting an expedition of such a scale as the Nikaia
campaign.
101
Tabari, Blankinship, 33; the fortress called Tibah by Tabari,maybe Thebasa, 15
Miies northwest of Herikleia. For 728-9, the ICritab al-Úyun records the same details
of the raid but the name of the fort is lost to alacuna. Yaqubi refers only to the fall of
(1898)
Gangra, which is in all likelihood a part of the push to Nikaia, Brooks, THS 18
f 99. iheophanes records the city aJ Ateo..ts, which is unidentified but may be
synon)¡rnous with Tibah / Thebasa, Theophanes, 98.
toz
Tabari, Blankinship,45. Blankinship places Samaluh near Tarsus and Al-Massissa,
but he equates it to Semålous on the nortñem military road between Kharsianon and
Dorylaeoì. Obviously they cannot be the same. If Semalous is not meant, it would mean
that the Byzantines still helct a town in Muslim controlled Cilicia.
to3 Blankinship,64. Apparently it was still an
Caesarea in Cappadokia, Tabari,
accomplishment to vãnt.rre even into eastem Cappadokia at this time'
10a
Theophanes gives the commander as Maslamah, but Maslamah was at waf in
the Transcaucasus according to Tabari, Blankinship, T0. Kharshanah is Kharsia¡on,
Farandiyyah is unidentified.
10s
Tabari, Blankinship, g5. The Khitab al-U)¡un dates the event to the previous
year, Brooks, JHS 18 (1898) 200.
55

territory with his force this year, but remained instead at Marash.10ó It would

appear that the Byzantine presence in the border region at this time was strong

enough to defeat one raiding force and intimidate another into inaction.toT

The year 792-3 saw al-Battal reach as far as Agrun/Akroinory inflicting a

defeat upon aByzantine army and capturing a general Constantine in the

process. Muawiya is said to have taken the outer city of Akroinon itself-

Another raid that year reached as far as Caesarea but is not said to have

1 08
accomplished anything.

For the next four years little is recorded by either the Byzantine or the

Muslim authorities. A campaign was made each year but only Theophanes

provides any more detail. For 73F-STheophanes says merely that: "Muawiya

106
Tabari, Blankinship, 95. Yaqubi records the same information to 730-7, stating
that Muawiya: " . . . did not succeeã in entering their [the Romans'] territory." Brooks,
THS 18 (1898) 200.

107If the altemate chronology of Yaqubi and the I(hitab al-Ulzun is favoured, then
Muawiya was able to pin the Èyzantine defensive force without exposing his command to
risk. Hâd Muawiya's ãr*y not been there the Byzantines might have been able to relieve
the siege of Karsianon after defeating al-Battal.
t08
Tabari, Blankinship,gT. There is no reason to susPect that this stategos Constantine
was the future Emperor-Constantine V (71,8-nÐ. Theophanes confirms a raid into
Paphlagonia, LOL. iaqubi places the defeat of strategos ConstantineinTSS-4, as does the
tGìtab ãl-Uvun. Brookì,IHS 18 (1898) 200. The Khitab al-Uyun does not mention a
Constantine b.tt .ecords events as disasffous for the Byzantines: " . ' . The Romans were
routed and the Moslems fell upon them and made great slaughter, and took many
captives and took possession of *te camp and made sport of their property'" Brooks,lH$
fg (f ggg) 20L. The }Gitab at-U)¡un is suspect, however, because it has merged this conflict
with the battle at Akroinon n73940.
Concerning Caesarea, Tabari may well be repeating his entry for the previous
year.
56

devastated Asia."læ Other than the occurrence of raids, no source has any
more

,detail for the period 735-6 to 737-8. For the last year, Theophanes states that

Sulieman took many prisoners in Romania.tl0 The first detailed reference by

another source is for the year 798-9,when Maslamah raided the Empire once

more, conquering Matamir.11l

In1gg- 1,Hisham launched a major invasion which penetrated well into

the Empire.tl2 This time, however, events did not favor the armies of the

Caliphate. Al-Battal, with 20,000 cavalry, camped near Akroinon. according to

Theophanes, almost two-thirds of that number were sudued, including the

commanders. The other forces were successful in their raids but are not

recorded as having accomplished more than 1ooting.113 The surviving 6800 of Ai-

Battal's cavalry escaped to Sulieman and then to Syria. While the destruction of

Theophanes, 102. As may be seen, Theophanes is not_always reliable, and caution


10e

must be exercised when no corroboration is available elsewhere.


110
ibid, 102;'Romania' is the Empire.
tlt Matamir is identified by Hillenbrand as a complex of caves in Cappadokia; Tabari,
Hillenbrand,3. Maslamatr trá¿ been off fighting the FCrazars and other'Turks'to the east
of Byzantine territory for the last decade (see below)
Yaqubi stateé that Maslamah reached Malatyah - if this is tme then he did not
actually enter imperial territory, Brooks, THS 18 (1898) 201'
112
Theophanes gives the size of the force at 90,000 men in three distinct arrnies,
103. This makes thís attack a similarly scaled enterprise to the army of the Nikaia
campaign of727 or728.
113
Theophanes, 103. The Muslim authorities have less detail but mention specifically
that al-Battãl was slain. The Khitab al-Uyun notes that Al-Battal's force was caught by
suqprise from the rear. But here the Khiiab al-Uyun must be regarded with suspicion; see
n.108.
57

one-sixth of the Muslim army may not seem crippting, it is unlikely that all the

looting that Sulieman perpetrated would compensate for the loss of equipment

and investment represented by the slaughtered thousands. Indeed, the next year

Yaqubi is the only authority which records any action in Byzantine lands, and it

appears to have been minor.

Thus the campaigns of Leo III's reign, while not a story of uninterrupted

imperial success, demonstrate that the forces of Islam were no longer able to raid

Byzantine possessions with impuniry. By analyzing the various references to

Byzantine and Arab field action it is possible to advance certain hypotheses

concerning imperial military ability.

With the exception of the offensive launched immediately after the failure

of the siege of Constantinople, there is no record of any Byzantine attacks upon

Arab possessions prior to740-I. \¡Vhile it is possibte that instances of Byzantine

aggression went unrecorded, there is no reason to believe that any such events

occurred after Umar tr and Yazidtr took measures to refortify the border. From

this it may be concluded that, by LJmar's death (20 Februaty,720), the Muslim

defences had recovered and sufficient men were once again under arms to deter

Byzantine attack.

After the accession of lJmar's successor, Yazid II, the Byzantine strategy

changed. No ionger choosing to raid outside their own borders, ii:rrperial forces

weïe frequently responsible for significant losses inflicted on raiders upon


58

entering Byzantine territory. The standard pioy used was of hitting various

detachments after the raiding force had dispersed to loot and/or forage'
A tenth

centuly treatise on skirmishing, written at the direction of the Emperor

Nikephorus II Phok as (963-9), deals specifically with established techniques

used to combat Arab raids:

When the troops going out to raid have gotten far,


enough away from the emir's battle formation so they
.untrõt retreàt to it again or so they will not even be
aware of an attack uPon the formatiory since each
man will be rushing to get to the villages and gather
as much booty as possible, then the general should set
his own battle line in ProPer order and launch his
attack against that of the emir, now undermanned,
and with the aid of God he will be victorious and
bring about the complete and utter destruction of the
y. If he does not feel confident enough to attack
"."rt
tkre báttle line directly, in as much as he notices that it
is very strong, significantly stronger than his own,
then he should move off at a distance to the side by a
good, but secret,road and with due speed reach the
ð."-y soldiers who are dispersed about. During the
wholé day he should charge in upon them and fight
them, ut tf,"y are all scattered all around

The actions of Leo's armies adhere very closely to the principles set down in the

Manual of Nikephorus II's time. Clearly Leo was able to assemble a competent

1tn Military Treatises, Dunbarton Oaks Texts no'9,


G. Dennis, Three Byzantine
Washington, D.C. tg85, iZt-g. There are other variations listed to deal with other
situations.
Another ffeatise on strategy, which Dennis dates to the sixth century/ recounts
similar tactics in use by Belisariuíio defeat greater numbers in detail. It adds that
Behsarius advocated tíre destruction of provlsions on the enemy's route of march
in
order to facfütate the need to send out slpply parties; Dennis, Three Byzantine Militar]¿
Treatises, 105. A reference to this tactic mãy exist in Tabari for the year 724-5'
59

but not overly large force in time to attack the raiding detachments of the Arabs

as they attempted to loot the Byzantine hinterland. On only rare occasions was

Leo abie to accomplish the destruction of a large contingent of the enemy army

(i.e. the two defeats of al-Battal, in 731-2and again in739-40).11s To succeed

against a major Arab incursion Leo would have had to employ not only the

Tagmata, but probably a significant proportion of the thematic units as well.11ó

The assembly of sufficient forces to engage in such action would have taken

some time. It is significant that two major engagements were fought at

Akroinon. An Arab march so far into Paphlagonia would have allowed Leo

much more time to gather troops than would an Arab attack upon eastern

Cappadokia.llT Thus the great campaigns of the Arabs were in a way much

more vulnerable than the comparatively minor border raids, which would

probably have been cor¡ntered primarity by the local part-time thematic

troops.lis

Strictly speaking, al-Battal's 20,000 cavalry comprised a detachment of the entire


tts
force of ahôsf five ti-ñres that number. However, al-Battal was obviously operating
independently at Akroinon, while the rest of the anny was at Tyana. Additionally the
size of the forte would probably make it toughly equal in size and possibly bigger than
the Byzantine response.

It is acknowledged that the thematic'system'as it is known in the later period


t16

was in only its formative stages in the eighth century.

According to Ramsay, there was apparently little danggr of Akroinon falling to


1i7

anything short õf an extended siege. It was a heavily fortified structure siruated on a


naâ-rral óasalt pinnacle which oveilooked the countryside from an elevation of 900
feet. W. Ramsäy, The Historical Geography of Asia Minor' Royal Geographical Society,
Supplementary Press, v. IV, London, John Murray , 1890, 87.
60

The smaller scale local raids were also vuinerable to carefuily timed

attacks, however. From 720-1, and the probable reestablishment of a viable

Arabic frontier defence to the second battle of Akroinon in 739-40, four years

saw the destruction of at least one Arab detach-ment. To th-is can be added the

major defeats suffered by Muslim raiding armies (al-Battal's reverses 1n730-L

and.739-40) and the losses incurred during the siege of Nikaia. Further, Hisham

is recorded as: " . . . squandering many of his men . . " ir-t Romania in 724-5'11e

Finally, on one occasion in73L-2, a Muslim force was assembled at the border

and did not even venture into Byzantine territory.l20 This would have cost the

Caliphate nearly as much as an unsuccessful campaign within the Empire.

When all the events are examined together it may be seen that the period

from 720 to740 was a difficult one for the raiding armies of Is1am, especially as

compared to the years prior to the siege of Constantinople. If the brief phase of

Byzantine aggression from 71.8 to720 is included, it becomes aPParent that only

a cautious commander could hope to invade Romania successfully and without

lls Conceming the attack on Níkaia as an example. It is difficult to imagine-Leo not


having taken an/ action to relieve the city. Nikaia is less than 100 miles from the capital
so Leõcould have had the Tagmata and possibly the Thracian thematic army there in less
than a week. The forces of Artavasdos are recorded by Theophanes as having been
within Nikaia. Thus the city was being defended by its own complement as well as the
soldiers of the Anatolic theme. The Cñronicon ad 1234. 241.-43, states that the siege lasted
forty days without the city's fall, so it was apparently well defended; Nikephorus, Mango,
c.67,p.212, for Mango's comments and the reference to Chronicon ad 1234. Abu Faraj
also has forty days for the siege but states that the Arabs destroyed the city, i-L0.

11e
Theophanes, g5.

t20
Tabari, Btankinship ,96;Yaqubi has the date as 730-1, Brooks, THS 18 (1898) 200.
67

loss. During Leo's reign three towns were taken from the Caliphate and at least

six signíficant losses were inflicted upon Arab armies.

But it would be easy to overstate the case of Byzantine military

resurgence. Against these setbacks the Catiphs could point out that their armies

succeeded in taking at least ten named towns and three unnamed fortresses and

had defeated two Byzantine field armies. In addition, while the Nikaia

campaign was undoubtedly a costly one for both sides, the losses of the attackers

may have been offset to some degree by what Theophanes calls tLle: " . . ' large

body of prisoners and booty," they carried away.121 The first battle of Akroinon

also resulted in the falt of the outer city to the besiegers and may have provided

some loot as wel1.12

The analysis of Leo's military action demonstrates that throughout his

reign the Emperor followed several principles regarding the Arab raids. After

720 he became aware that the Empire could engage the Caliphate in only a

'limited' war if it were to entertain any hope of success. Even at full strength the

thematic forces could not prevent the loss of border-citadels if the Muslims

launched a significant attack. But they could harass the raiders whenever

possible, picking off detachments or entire armies if the situation allowed.

121
Theophanes, 98. Although Nikephorus'less alarmist comments on the siege
should not be forgotten; Mango, 131.
1" T aban, Blankinship, 97.
62

Destroying raiding detachments had a number of benefits for the Empire.

Most obvious is the military advantage of reducing the opponents' numbers, but

there are others. When the chance of being ambushed existed the number of

raiding parties would almost certainly be lower in order to increase the strength

of each party. Larger units move more slowly and are more easily seen and

avoided by refugees. Lessening the effectiveness of the provisioning forces

would rapidly affect the main arrrryt forcing commanders to bring alarger, more

vulnerable supply train or to dedicate troops to guarding the line of supply.

Otherwise the raid would inevitably be cut short as provisions dwindled and

were not sufficiently replaced.

The knowledge that an enemy force was nearby and preying upon the

looting parties would necessitate a change in the invaders' strategy. Looting

parties might be reassigned to scouting in order to locate the defenders. Until

the enemy was located or at least its size ascertained, only a rash commander

would allow his looters to range so far afield as to be unable to rush to the aid of

the parent body. The actual quantify of troops assigned to raiding would

probably also be reduced so that a sudden attack would not find the invading

army low in man-power.

Haldon and Kennedy have adequately described the Atab-Byzantine

frontier as a land full of Byzantine fortresses in the mountainous parts of the


63

territory and, walled Arab towns in the valieys.læ Most of the Byzantine citadels

were also local military and adminístrative centres, often with an attached

village or town. The town was un-fortified but the inhabitants looked for safety

in the castle itself, which was relatively safe from assault. Thus, with warning,

much of the population and its movable wealth would be ensconced in the

fortress for the duration of an Arab army's stay in the region. The Byzantine

military system on the border was developed to minimize the damage done by

Muslim invaders. In the case of raids too great to fend off, either wholly or in

detail, the unit was able to retreat with much of the population of the region into

a mountain citadel and let the raiders loot what remained. While the

effectiveness of this system of defence should not be overstated, it is entirely

likely that many of the cities listed as captured by the various authorities for the

period suffered damage primarily to their u¡Jortified portions, while the walled

portions, probably the richest holdings, went unscathed.l2a

Concerning the vulnerability of any rural Byzantines in the borderlands,

it must be remembered that the experience of almost annual raids was not new

to the area.12s Haldon notes that even before the Arab raids into eastern

12,
For an illuminating description of life on both sides of the frontier, see Haldon
and Kennedy, "The Arab-Byzantine Frontier in the Eighth and Ninth Centuries," pøssim.

The instances of Nikaia (727-8) and Akroin on (732-3) are indicative of this
t24

possibility. ln both cases only the outer poriions were breached'


ttu
Haldon, Byzantium in the Seventh Cenrury, Cambridge University Press,
J.F.
Cambridge, England, 1990, 48.
64

Anatolia, the region had been thoroughly disrupted by the Persians of

Herakleios' time (610-41). Thus the situation as it existed on the border in Leo

trI's day had. already obtained for nearly a century. Far from being disruptive

unusual events, by the early eighth century the Arab raids had probably become

a part of the locat equilibrium. By the 720s andlater the lifestyle of eastern Asia

Minor would either have adapted to the arrrual incusions or ceased to exist;

potentially, the strengthening of Byzantine resistance under Leo could have

meant increased security for those peoples living on the border.

That the raiders were probably not getting rich from the spoils of the

annual forays is borne out by the records of Muslim Pay-scales for the soldiers of

the various regions. Haldon points out that the rates of pay are much gteater

than those recorded for Islamic soldiers elsewhere.126 It is important also to note

that this same high pay-rate suggests that the government of the Caliphate could

not recruit enough men-at-arms for the region using normal methods. In all

likelihood this must be either because the duty was more hazardous or because

the rewards of ph-rndering were insufficient.

Obviously, the reign of Leo III was one filled with military action along its

eastern border. As has been seen, the Empire was able adequately to defend

For the Abbassid period, Haldon and Kennedy suggest: "It can definitely be
126

said that rates of pay [on the frontier] were subsiantially higher than the 80 dirhams
per month whidiwâsusual elsewhere, which suggests thatconditions were arduous
a¡d there was a need to offer men inducements to serve in the area. "The Arab-Byzantine
Frontier," 112.
65

itself d.ue to a policy of ambush and counter-raid when deating with invaders.

But if these actions had been used in isolation, they undoubtedly would have

met with much reduced success. In reality, Leo combined his military solution

with a diptomatic one in true Byzantine fashion. By influencing various peoples

around. the Empire to act in concert with him he was able effectively to lessen the

amount of pressure that the Caliphate could bring to bear uPon the Empire. It is

this indirect Arab-Byzantine conflict which must now be examined. The

negotiations which Leo pursued with certain Transcaucasian peoples contrived

advantageous alliances for Byzantium, in turn making a military resurgence a

real possibility for his successor.

A significant presence had been established by the Byzantines in the

Transcaucasus as early as the reign of Justinian I. For the peoples immediately


to the north of Arab-controlled Armenia the Empire was ever-present.

Byzantine fortresses controlled the Black Sea coast, their churches graced local

settlements, and their influence was present in the imperial titles sported by the

local nobility."'

The Arabs certainly understood the need to exert influence in this region.

During Leo's career, virtualty every year expeditions were launched by the

Arabs against different tribes of the Caucasus and Black Sea area with an eye

ttt W.E.D. Allen, Histor)¿ of the Georgian People, Routledge and Keegan Paul, London,
1971,, 80; see also S. Der Nersessian, Armenia and the B)¡zantine EmPire, Harvard
University Press, Cambridge, Mass. 1947,7.
66

toward control of this strategicatty valuable territory. Allen states:

In the Transcaucasian lands the Arabs held the cities


at the junction of the traders'ways: Tiflis - Shamakha
- Derbend; Kars - Dabil, Barda'a to Tabriz' By their
control of the Armenian cities they were the masters
of Armenian politics, but otherwise they let alone the
mountain lords, using them as military auxilliaries,
deposing them or killing them as fitted policy,
beating down the older, prouder houses, setting one
,r".r,rr th" other, favouring small and upstart men'128

Long before Leo became Emperor, he was made aware both of the

advantages of alliance and of the importance of the various peoples beyond the

easternborder of the Empire. Theophanes records an early adventure of Leo's

during the second reign of ]ustinian II (705-11). At this time Leo became

intimately acquainted with both the Alans and the Abasgians. Indeed, if

Theophanes has the details of the story correct Leo left a lasting positive

impression upon the Alans and reaffirmed their alliance with the Empire. [r
addition, he was able to press the ruler of the fortress of Sideron, as well as the

leader of the Apsilians into a clientship with Constantinople. The Abasgians

were also convinced to return to the imperial fold after suffering devastation at

the hands of the Alans, who were acting on the behalf of Leo.l2e Thus Leo

shored up the faltering Transcaucasian situatiory but it was not to last. By 771',

128
ibid,80.
t2e
See Map for the geographical setting of the Caucasus region'
67

the Prince of Abasgia as well as Smbat, ruler of A¡menia were once more within

the orbit of the Caliphate. Regardless of the outcome of this instance however,

Leo seems clearly to have tmderstood the necessity of good relations and

influence peddling in the diverse courts of the Transcaucasus.

The references to Leo'S diplomatic efforts aS emperor are rare and

generally are not found in the major soufces for the period. This may be due, as

Gero suggests, to iconophile historical revisionism which may have overlooked

the recording of events charitable to Leo in favour of polemic over his

iconoclasm.lso It is necessary to seek out references in the Armenian records for a

clearer picture of this crucial part of Leo's foreign policy.

As has been seen, by the beginning of the eighth century, the Caliphate

was master of Greater Armenia.t'i A line of Arab border-fortresses also was in

existence to ward against Byzantine attack. Continuing the limes whichincluded

Marash/Germanikeia, Flisn Mansur, Zapetrah, and Malatyah/ Melitene, the

Muslims fortified Mayyafaraquin, Malazgird, ffid Qa1iqala.132 This frontier

limited the Empire's ability to take direct action in Fourth Armenia, but

diplomatic interference was not impossible.

Through the Pontic Sea,Byzantium had access to the Abasgians and the

lesser west Georgian peoples. Allen notes that until the end of the eighth

lto Gero, leo III, 152.

t" S. Der Nessessian, Armenia and the EmPire, Harvard University Press, 1947,7'
132
Martyropolis, Manzikert and Erzerum respectively; Minorsky, Hudud al-Alam, 395.
68

century, Byzantine control over the Abasgians was reasonably secure'1æ Gero

provides evídence to corroborate this assertion. A letter which Gero says refers

to events no later ttlan736 (the prince Mir addressed in the letter died in
736)

the
congratulates the princes Mir and Arcil for their staunch defence against

attacks of the Caliph's forces. The preface to the letter adequately demonstrates

the level of clientship of the princes to the empire:

Mir, Arcil and Leo, the Ruler of Aphazeti, sent an


embassytothekingoftheGreeksandrevealedwhat
had been done by God through their [i'e' the
Muslims'] instrumentality. And he gave two crowns
and a charter to Mir and Arcil, and accompanying
these [gifts] he wrote thus: Yours were dominion,
contagè, and wisdom in Kartli' Now although you
ut" p"ise.uted, together with us for the sake of
serrrice for the Cross, when we returry as God
promised to us, you will be exalted with us'1s

The text would aPPear to preserve an aPpeal by Mir and Arcil to the Emperor

Leo for salvation from Arab aggresion. Leo rewards them with the symbols of

their clientship and makes vague promises of aid. Nothing is known which

1" Allen, Hist. of the Georgian PeoPles,80. C. Toumanofl "Medieval Georgian


Historical LiterarurJ Traditiõ I (1943i 1.44, states that the Bagtatids, a Georgian dynasty,
were honoured with the imperialtitle curopøIøtesby the eighth century'
13n
Gero, Iconoclasm During the Reign of Leo IIL l,51. Gero also notes: "The section of
the chronicle which includes tñis text is considered by several scholars (inctuding
Toumanoff) to be the work of Juansher, Arcil's relative by marriage, and tfrls an almost
contemporary eighth century ior.rt.". C. Toumanofl "Medieval Georgian Historical
Literatrire," Tradftio i (1943) 170. The possibility oÍ eieventh cenfúry interpolations does,
however, exist,iÞkl-"150. The fact thaiJuanshei was closely related to Mir might also
mean that he had access to documents such as the letters, etc; Kartli may be Kars; see
MaP.
69

directly relates to any military salvation for the princes, though perhaps the

record of the Byzantine defeat in Armeni a tn720-l refers to the Emperor's

response to the Abasgian lords.13s

It has already been seen that, in the early years of the eighth century, the

Alans were favorably disposed toward the Empire, in part due to the efforts of

Leo. However, by 724-5 the Alans were incorporated, at least temporarily, as a

client-state of the Caliphate. Al-Hajjaj b. Abd al-Malik succeeded in a campaign

against them and imposed the jizyahupon them.136 Yet by 735-6, Tabari relates

that the future Caliph Marwan captured tluee fortresses in Alan lands'13t

Apparently the Alans had shifted away from Muslim control at some point over

the intervening ten years. No source gives the exact reason for this shift, but

one need not look far.

Arab aggression in the Transcaucasus was more than enough reason to

make the Alans attempt to tluow off their Arab yoke before it became

impossibte. Several campaigns in the recent past saw Islamic forces conquering

the lesser tribes of the region. As early as the reign of Yazidn (7204),Tl:re

13s
Tabari, Powers, L64;Yaqubi, Brooks, THS 18 (1898) 797. Gerc also notes that
another letter to [æo, Ruler of Àphazeti, is preserved by the chronicle' He says that
the text is obviously false, 151. Vet the correspondence itself need not be doubted,
only the substance of it.
1s6
Wahis the tax or tribute imposed by the Muslims upon non-believers under
their control, Tabari, BlankinshiP, 8-. A year earlier , al-Haiiaj was able to pass through
Alania and progress as far as Balanjar in Khazaria' So apparentiy the Alan posiiion
toward the Caliphate was not overly hostile even then'

'37 T abart, Blankinship, LL L.


70

Hasmadan, a people of the Lakz (Lazikians) were brought under Arab

d.omination. úr 72g-30,a1-]aruah crossed the Kur and the Samur rivers into

Ifttazaria,but on the way he took Hamzþ Ghumik and Shakki, all near

neighhors of the Alans.138 The next year al-]arrah and most of his command

were slain by the l(razars on his return to Ardabil. But shortly thereafter

another expedition under Maslamah (then governor of Armenia) sought the

Khazars and conquered Khrai zan, a!-!Ibal, Sharwan, Lifan, Tabarsaran, Filan,

and settled it
|arshan, and Muskat. He then besieged and took the city of Al-Bab

with 24,000 Syrians.l3e Tabari records Marwan defeating the Tumanshah once

more 1n735-6 during the attack on the three Alan forts'140

A significant pacification of the Atans must have occurred at this time.

Two years later in 737-8,Tabari relates that Sulayman b. Hisham captured

Sindirah, while Ishaqb. Muslim al-Uqayli again seized the lands of the

Tumanshah. Meanwhile Marwan is said to have pressed even further and

carried the war into Khazar territory.tnt Lr the next season Marwan led another

t38
Baladhuri,323' Minorsky, Histor)¡ of Sharvan and Darband' identifies Hamzin
as the Humfi, and the Ghumik'as the Tuman of Baladhuri' Hamzin may be identical
to the Hazmadan also mentioned by Baladhuri,322; see Map'

This passage is corroborated by Masudi, Trans. Sprenger, 435-6, who although he


t3e

obviously tra¿ gãtadhuri as a so.rtce, has details which must have come from elsewhere'
The BCraLan may be tCrazai, just south of the Samur. Al-Jibal, Liran and Jarshan are
unidentified; see Map.
tno
Tabari, Blankinship, 111.
1a1
Tabari, Blankinshi p, 1.67 . Blankinship identifies Sindirah with the Sideroun
mentioned by Theophanes for the same year (p.103) but states that the site cannot be
identified further. Sidetorrtt is also mentioned by Theophanes during Leo's
77

campaign into the same region and beyond to the country of the Lord of the

Golden Throne:

Marwan captured his fortresses and laid waste his


lands. He submitted to Marwan, having agreed to
give him as Jizy-ahone thousand slaves' Marwan
iook a pledge irom him on that basis and reinstated
him inlonftol of his territotY.tt

Obviously the Caliphate was slowly establishing a significant presence in

tt.e region. Yet there were definite limits to its Power. While it was apparently

possible to traverse Alania to raid beyond, Marwan was aware that there was
no

way in which he could retain direct control over the Sarir' A powerful

permanent Arab Presence was simply too fat away to establish the Sarir as any

sort of a client state. Marwan had to settle for a simple demand for tribute;

anything more could easily be repudiated once the invaders retreated'

Similarly, aiízyahwas required of the Alans, but there was no way to retain

local authority until the capture of al-Bab in729-30'

Transcaucasian mission prior to his assnmption of the purple (p 87)' tvtrlorl\Y, Histor)¡
of
Sharvan and Darband. dãscribes a people called the Shandan/Sindan,103. Their location
matches with the details which *uy u. gleaned from Theophanes; see Map. TheoPhanes'
reference for73l-Bmistakenly phcôs Sid.eroun within Romania. In the context of the
earlier passage, Sideroun is o-büiously east of the Lazfüans (Arabic' al-Lakz)'
t4 Tabari, Hillenbran d.,34. The lord of the Golden Throne or Sahib Sarir ad-dhahab
(Ar.) is the Khan of the remnants of the Avars who settled just north of the Alans after the
the
dissolution of the Avar Kingdom in the second haif of the seventtr century. lGrown as
Sarir (Ar. 'throne'), they areäescribed in the account of Ibn Rustah, who visited the Sarir
prior io 902 4.D.. Ibn ftustah, Les Atouts, Trans. G. Wiet, from Minorsky, Histor)¡ of
Sharvan and Darband, 1'67-8.
72

Even this powerful citadel may not have been enough to secu¡e the area

entirely. Baladhuri noted that24,000 Syrians were stationed at al-Bab,

presumably to hold tlLis strategically vital site.l€ FIowever, Masudi records that

the Alans could muster 30,000 horsemen and the Khazars are noted by al-Balami

and Ibn al-Athir as having assembled that same number for a single

expedition.la Thus the Syrian garrison could not hope to enforce Arab authority

without aid from Damascus. For Byzantium, however, the result is the same:

Alania slipped further from imperial influence even as the Caliphate established

itself in the Transcaucasus.

Leo's best known diplomatic manoeuvre is the imperial alliance with the

Khazars. In the early 730s,Leo acquired a Yrhazar princess to wed to his son

Constantine, thus cementing a relationship which probabty was in de facto

existence for some time previous.las The l{razars had been at war intermittently

with the Caliphate for nearly a century and from 7L7 onward Arab-Khazar strife

was only slightly less common than the near annual Muslim raids upon the

143
Baladhuri,325.

It is not intended that these figures be taken as actual values, but they are certainly
144

indicative of the various authorities; opinions of the relative srrengths of the different
forces in the region. ln this regard the figures demonstrate that the 24,000 Syrians were
probably intenãed to act primãrily as a defensive force for the citadel. Masudi, trans.
'Sp'..'g"',436;foral-BalanriandILnal-AthirseeDunlop,Histor}¡oftheTewishKhazars,
62.

Ln732-3 according to Theophanes, 101; Abu Faraj has731', p'110; Gero notes
14s

that while Michael the Syrian haà79t, the Chronicon aci 1234 puts the marriage i'-,
730, Iconoclasm in the Reign of Leo III' 28-9.
There is no recordõf the ter-s of the treaty. It may have been one of mutual
nonaggression or of financial aid to the Khazars.
73

Empire. By the early 730s,the Khazars would almost certainly have been

sympathetic to Leo's cause and an alliance would have been mutually

advantageous.

Various soufces provide evidence which, when taken together, suggests a

possible joint offensive upon Muslim Armenia by both Khazars and

Byzantines.l46 Both Tabari and Yaqubi record a battle in Armeniain720-1,in

which the Arabs defeated a Byzantine force and took 700 prisoneÍs.'n' But for

the same year,Duntop notes that al-Balami and Ibn al-Athir relate a major battie

between the Khazars and the Caliphate, also in Armenia, which resulted in a

pr-rnishing loss for the Muslims.lat No further evidence exists for any joint action

by the Empire and the l{razars, but relations were apparently peaceful until the

official alliance several years later.

146
The enhies in the various sources are extremely confusing chronologicaliy, and
no adequate analysis of the Arab Transcaucasian campaigns has been done. ln addition
to the cirronologiád difficutties the sources often use the same name to refer to what are
apparently diffãrent peoples or different names to refer to a single gfou-p' It is not the
itrt""t of tire pïesent*oit to explore this complex problem except as it bears upon the
central issuebf Byzantine-Arab frontier warfare in this period'
t47
Tabari, Powers, 164;Yaqubi, Brooks, THS 18 (1,898) 797'
1aB
Dunlop, History of the Jewish Khazars. 62. Itis not rnrpossi,ble-that I-eo and
the lcragan õf tfte lCrãzars agreed to a co-ordinated invasion of Muslim Armenia.
The timñg coincides with thé completion of Umar's reinforcement of Cilicia against
Byzantine"attack. Perhaps Leo saoi an opportunity for further exploits in a new theatre of
operations. At any rate,ìt appears that thã venture was a failure for the Byzantines. This
setback may have'been instümentai in the formation of Leo's defensive policy of
ambushing invaders (which was adopted at this time).Conversely, it may be simply that
læo was altempting to seduce one ofìhe local Armenian potentates away from their Arab
masters.
74

The Khaganate was definitely capable of occupying a significant portion

of the Caliphate's resoufces during the two decades of Arab-Khazar warfate

under discussion (7174n. The KLrazars i¡flicted heavy losses upon the Caliph's

armies inZIT-8,720-1 and.729-30. On several other occasions Arab forces are

noted attacking f$azar possessions in strength. While this was without doubt

pr-rnishing to the Khazars, it meant that there were considerably fewer troops
for

the Caliph to devote to attacks uPon the Empire.lae

Whatever the exact terms of the Byzantine-Khazar union, it appears that

Leo had gotten the better of the bargain. In fact, Leo could accurately be accused

of leaving his allies to face the aggressions of the Caliphate unaided. There is

some evidence to suggest that he had treated the Abasgians at Karthli similariy

at some time in the past. To the embassy of Mir and Ardacil, Leo replied:

. . . stay in your fortresses, until three hundred years


pass away, because in the two hundred and fiftieth
year their dominion wilt be divided, and at the
completion of the three hundredth year the power
shali be given back to our kingdom, and we shall
destroy the Agarenes.tuo

14e
The Arabs made raids upon the Khazars in7234,728-9, and 730-L. It should
be noted that, had these forceib."n available to the Caliphate for use against the Empire,
it would have been an easy logistical mattef to transporlthem to the imperial border
rather than to the region of al--gab (the Caspian Gates). This could have made the
consequences of the"annual raids much more dire for the Empirgt The Arab-Ktrazar
wars
are as irt"cft a boon to the Empire as the Abbasid revolution and its attendant distractions
wouici be two decades iater.
1s0
Gero, Iconoclasm in the Reign of Leo III, 151'
75

The general impression of the passage is that Leo will aid them with little more

than words and crowns. This attitude may have been hard on his allies, but if

Leo saw the Empire's military situation as desperate, then he essentially was

forced, to choose between protecting his own possessions or those of his

neighbours.lst Leo did not have sufficient men or money to launch campaigns

into Armenia and beyond unless the reward was great.1s2 By not taking action in

aid of his allies, Leo was saved the expense of such a course and was abie to

keep more of his troops at home to defend his own lands.

Throughout his reign, Leo Itr faced the potential of overwhelming

military force being directed at his beleaguered Empire. After the siege of

Constantinople, Leo was able to organize a brief but successful offensive against

the Caliphate. But he soon came to understand that the Empire could not

withstand prolonged, large-scale devastation of its territories by the armies of

Islam and altered his military policy to timit the damage inflicted in this regard.

This policy was so successful that he was able to in-flict several losses upon the

invaders and timit their depredations primarily to the frontier region. To further

limit the forces the enemy could bring against the Empire, Leo sought out

alliances with others who stood in the way of Arab attack. By creating such

alliances he was able to split the attention of the caliphs and force them to

Since there is no way of knowing læo's actual motivation, it is also possible that he
151

had no intention of ever coming to the aid of any ally unless it suited him.

If he had already lost an anny on one such attemptln720-'1., he would have been
1s2

doubty cautious about any such risked thereafter.


76

commit men and resources to actions other than those which targeted the

Byzantines. There were no territorial gains for the Empire during Leo's reign.

Nor did the Caliphate suffer any major immediate consequence of their setbacks

at Leo's hands. The worth of Leo's poticy was not in that which it accomplished

as much as it was in that which it prevented and that for which it provided.

Through careful application of martial power and negotiation, Leo preserved the

Empire and reestablished the Arab-Byzantine frontier. It took many years for

the realization of this policy, but it eventually allowed for a further resurgence of

Byzantine military fortune under Leo's son and successoÍ, Constantine V.ls

Constantine was able to take the rejuvenated Empire of his father and,

capitalizing on events around him even as Leo had before him, take the border

struggle to the Caliphate.

It is worth bearing in mind that the last actual dynastic succession was over half a
,5,
century before when Juãtinian II succeeded his father Constantine IV in 685-6' From the
deposition oÍ justinian ifi 695-6, the irrrperial office became the province-of whomever
.oùt¿ find sufficient backing in the militaryto take it. læo himself seized power in just this
manner. With the accession-of Constantine V came the reestablishment of imperial
succession and the stability which this sometimes entails.
77

VI

CONSTANTINE V

After a period of successful co-rule which lasted for some time,

Constantine V succeeded his father Leo the Isaurian on L8 Jwre741.


Only nine

days into his reign, Constantine took his army into the Opsikion
theme to

battle the Arabs at Krasos. The outcome of the encounter is unknown'


for

neither Byzantine nor Arab soufces provide any greater detail'is For the
same

The
year Baladhuri records an unsuccessful Byzantine attack upon Malatyah'

beseigers withdrew when word of a Muslim relief force reached


the city'lss

These events herald. a modification by Constantine of his father's

essentially defensive policy. The assault on Malatyah is the first recorded

instance of Byzantine territorial aggression since Leo III's campaign against

cilicia and syrian Laodikeia :frt7u8-20. ÉIowever, unlike Leo's short-lived

offensive, Constantine's scheme was to become a central point in his


policy for

to
the Arab border. It was no longer necessary for the Byzantines simply

await the Saracen iruoads, attempting to minimize the damage caused to

imperial territory by the invaders. Under Constantine, it became possible for

Solomon' but has


"n Theophanes, 105. Yaqubi records a suÛunef raid for T4L under only
nothing io.or"; yaqubi, Båoks,IHS (1898) 202. At thig tim9, it ca¡ be assumed
in'¡aders
that the raid resuiteá in significalrt advantage Íor neither side; perhaps the
escaped with some Plunder.

tuu
Baladhuri,29l.
78

the Empire to take the offensive as it had not been under his father - making

raids into Arab lands and looting Arab towns, just as the forces of the

Caliphate had been doing to the Empire for over a century'1s6

But this new policy could not be more fully enacted until Constantine

was firmly established on the throne. In742, Artavasdos, strategos of the

Opsikion and lifetong supporter of Leo III, rebelled against Constantine and

had himself proclaimed emperor. The civil war which followed lasted until

the late fall of 743 andoccupied much of the attention of both contestants for

its duration.lsT

The Arabs took advantage of the internicine stuggle to raid the Empire.

According to Theophanes: "When the Arabs leamed of the civil war between

these men they took many prisoners in Romania, Suleiman was their

general."is8 Tabari confirms Theophanes testimony but adds that Leo III, at the

head of a}yzantine army, opposed the raiders. Suleiman is said to have


returned with booty.lse Further raids wefe launched throughout the

156

It is significant that Constantine is recorded as having been active in Opsikion


concuriently with the Byzantine attack on Malatyah (an attack which comprised
20,000 *"n, u..ording tó Baladhuri, 291). The abitity to involve the Tagmata and
certain thematic troois in one region and to have enough thematic forces left to
imperit a heavily defänded enettiy fortification was beyond the armies of Leo's era'
1s7 Theophanes records the details of the civil war, 105-8. It will be dealt with here
only in só much as it relates to the central question of Isaurian military policy on the
eastem frontier.

1s8 Theophanes,106.

1se Tabari, Hillenbrand, 68. Yaqubi also preserves this tale but adds that Artavasdas
was beside Leo and that there wãs no engagement before the Arabs withdrew;
79

remaindef of the civil war, until late T[SwhenConstantine prevailed over

Artavasdas. Yet it may be worth noting that only Theophanes credits the raids

of this period with significant consequences. The Muslim soulces are united
in

record-ing simply the occurence of a raid and its leader. The impression to be

gathered from the Arab authorities is that the raids were not major' Overall,
it

would appear that, even when divided against itself, the Byzantine military

was able to offer effective resistance against aggression.lto While this statement

can only be made tentatively, it is bome out by the rapid reestablishment of a

major Byzantine offensive upon the cessation of the civil war. Even after the

losses which must have occurred at that time, the imperial army was capable

of immediate action.161

The change in the character of imperial policy was aPParent to the

Caliph Hisham (72443). At some point during his reign he fortified a large

Yaqubi, Brooks (7900) 202.


Obviously these entries present a dilemma since Leo died the previous year.
perhaps Tabari áa YaquUi havä preserved evidence of aByzarúine response but
inserted the name of the wfong E^mperor. Altemately, the dating of one or more of
the entries may be inaccurate. It is èurious that Yaqubi specifically notes that the
Emperor and Artavasdas appear to resist the invasion jointly'

160 It should be noted that the Muslim sources do not record severe internal
difficulties for the Caliphate until 743 and the death of Hisham. Thus there were no
divisions within the Mislim world to distract the sources or the raiding forces which
they record.
161 There is no mention of Byzantine opposition to the Arabs Íot 742-3. However, if
the thesis previously advancád concet"úñg the comparative unassailability of many of
the Byzaniine citadéts is correct, the Arabiaiders w-ould have needed considerable
forceio affect any Byzantine population centre. Thus even when unopposed, the
invaders would often be limited to Iight raiding rather than conquest'
80

number of sites against potential Byzantine attack. According to Baladhuri:

Hisham also had Katargash fort built by Abd al


Azizb. Harijan al-Antaki. He also had Mu¡ah fort
built because the Greeks had interfered with one of
his messengers at Darb al-Lukan near al-Akabah-l-
Barda. In this fort he stationed forty men and a
body of at-]arajimah. kr Bagras [Pagrae] he
established a garrison of fifty men and built a fort
for it. Hisham, moreover, built the Buka fort in the
province of Antioch.l62

Baladhuri gives no indication of when during Flisham's time the fortifications

were carried out. If the period of fortification did not span the length of

Flisham's reign, and was enacted over a relatively short period, the most

logical time would have been in his last few years. As has been seen above,

while Leo's armies were definitely troublesome to Muslim raiders, they posed

little or no th¡eat to the territories of the Caliphate. However, in the later

years of the reign of Leo, his successor, Constantine, was of an age to take an

active role in the exercise of imperial power. Indeed, the young emPeror must

have been active in the military prior to his accession to have acheived the

early successes that even Theophanes credits him with- If, as is probable,

Constantine d-isplayed the same aggresive style as junior emPeror that he did

upon taking the throne, there was ample reason for an astute caliph to begin a

fortification program on the Byzantine border. Thus, the defences were most

162
Baladh¡¡1ri,2SB; Baladhuri also records the construction of another fort, al-
Muttakkab, in Hisham's time, p.258.
Bagas/Pagrae, also knbwn as Birjirik is inland of Antioch. Katargash may be
Karsaga. Murah, Buka and a]-Muttakkab are thus far unidentified.
81

likely to have been und.ertaken in the late 730s or after, possibly as a reaction

to the major loss at Akroinon ín739.1æ It is even possible that Hisham used

the Byzantine civil war to take defensive action as well as to launch offensive

raids.

With the defeat of Artavasdas, Constantine was able to concentrate

more fulty upon the easternborder situation. He lost no time in seizing the

offensive. In744,taking advantage of the revolt of Marwan b. Muhammad

and the Arab civil war which followed the death of walid II (reigned 15 April

744 to L2 Octobe r 744),Constantine latnched a major assault upon al-Hadath

and.Zlbafiah.164 Both towns were razedbut no attempt was made to establish

a permanent Byzantine Presence in either locale.l6s

In the following yeaÍ,Constantine again saw an opportunity during the

r6t Other than the abortive seige of Malatyah 1n740-'l.,no overt action took place in
the part of Constantine's reign\Z+t-ZZS¡ tñat overlapped Hishart's (724-43) which
stands out as an obvious imþetus toward such defensive measures. The loss of so
large a force as the one destioyed at Akroinon could have had far-reaching
imþtications for the Arab miliiary. As was noted above, it took several years for the
Caiiph's forces to recover from the spectacular losses incurred in the seige of
Constantinople (716-8).
t* Adata and Zopetrah respectively; Baladhuri,2gg.Ibn al-Athir records the fall of
Zlbatrahunder tire previous year, Lut Baladhuri specifically states that it was attacked
in the days of Waiid; Brooks, (790i0) 202'
lriar*an b. Muhammad is the future Caliph Marwan II (7114-50) who
championed the offspring of the murdered Walid II as a means to acquire the
Calipirate for himseú. Tt ls is the same Marwan who was so active against the
Traiscaucasian peoples throughout the middle decades of the century'
165
Baladhuri, 299; anð.ibn ai-Athir, Brooks, (1900) 202. Both note 'that Zibatrah was
rather weakly rebuilt by the Arabs and once more reduced by the Empire during
Marwan's Cánpnate. Bãhdhuri goes on to remark that this pattem contirues for
Zibaftahinto the days of al-Mamun (813-33)'
82

revolt of the city of Hims against the new Caliph, Marwan T' 7'6 According to

Baladhuri, imperiai armies fell upon the city of Marash and took it on terms

after a seige. Again the cify was destroyed rather than being garrisoned'1ó7

Theophanes records the same raid but adds that the Byzantines continued into

Syria and seized. Doulukia in addition to Marash.168 There is no record of any

further Byzanüne agression during the remainder of Marwan's reign'

Flowever, in746-7 an Arab fleet of 1000 ships attacked Cyprus.l6e The

Kibyrraiot navy was at anchor in Cyprus at the time and, taking advantage of

the opportunity, was able to surround the Muslim armada and cut it off ftom

retreat. Apparently, only a few ships escaped.

Given the persistent attacks suffered by the Caliphate at Byzantine

hands in the early part of Marwan's reign, it is not surprising tl-rat he was

responsible for significant fortification along the common border. He furthered

the stiffening of the Taurus frontier begun by Hisham, rebuilding Marash as

1* Hims/Emesa was in revolt for several months beginning in June of 745. See
Baladhuri, 294-5, and Tabari, Williams,4-9'
167
Baladhuri,2gÇ5. Marash/Germanfüeia was the birthplace of Leo III and the
strategos Artavasdas. Theophanes also records that Constantine transferred some of
hir .el-atirr"s from Marash to the capital at this time. The city was rebuilt by Marwan
n747-8; Tabari, Williams, 121; bufit was again sacked by the Empire and once more
rebuilt in the days of al-Mansur (7il-mÐ.
158 Theophanes, 1L2. Doulukia is Duluk in Syria; whether it was g_arris_oned rather
than destioyed is not recorded but the latter is much more likely. See also
Nikephorus, Mango, c.67,p.739,who puts the event n747-8'
16e
Theophanes, 113. Cyprus was at this time a condominium between the Empire
and the Caliphate. I^74i-9, Hisham had sent a force there to compelthe inhabitants
to choose either Arab or Byzantine suzerainty; Tabari, Hillenbrand' 720'
83

well as increasing the defences of Hisn Mansur. IrL addition to upgrading the

fortifications there, Batadhuri notes that Hisn Mansur became the station for:

" . . . a large host of the troops from Syria and Mesopotamia in order to

repulse the enemy."17o

Toward the end of 7[9,Marwan's troubled caliphate gave way under

the pressure of the Abbasids. Marwan fled but was murdered in EgyPt'

Certain relatives succeeded in reaching Muslim Spain, but Umayyad power

was no more and the Abbassids established themselves in the Caliphate under

Abul-Abbas as-Saffah in 750.

The new Caliph was as aware of the troublsome Byzantines as had been

his predeccessor. According to Baladhuri, Abu-l-Abbas increased the garrison

of al-Massissa by 400 men and further secured their loyalfby distributing

lands among them.171 His concern was not misplaced, for Constantine

demonstrated the necessity of Arab refortification that same year. The

Byzantine Emperor mounted a major expedition against Malatyah and many of

the citad,els thereabouts. First threatening Kamkh, Constantine easily routed a

unit of 800 horsemen sent as reinforcements by the governor of Malatyah'

Constantine then invested Malatyah and, followiog a seige, the citizens were

allowed to emigrate tnmolested to Mesopotamia. The city: " . . . was then

razed.to the ground by the Greeks, who left nothing but a granary of which

Baladhuri,299.
17r
ibid,257.
84

one side was dama g"d."t"

From Malatyah , ttreByzantine attack continued, taking Hisn Kalidiyah

and Kalikala,Iayingseige unsuccessfully to Shimshat, and reportedly placing a

garrison in the citadel of Karnak.l73 The response of the Caliphate was a raid

by Said b. Abdallah, which appears to have had no significant consequences.lT'

From the end of the Malatyah campaign until the accession of Mansur

(g / t0 lune 754) there is no record of any border strife between Empire and

Caliphate. Yaqubi states that Salih b. Ali's raid into Byzantine territory n754-

5 was the first since 7424.17s Tabari holds that the leader of this year's

expedition was Abdalahb. Ali, but that the army did not succeed in

772 ibid,2g1. He also suggests that Constantine knew that no aid would be
forttrcomiog to defend Mäiatyah. Constantine is said to have taken advantage of the
intemal strife within the Caliphate following the rise of the Abbasids to make his
attack.
Nikephorus, Mango, c.70,p.7[3,confirms the attack on Melitene; as do Yaqubi,
Brooks,(1900¡ZtZ,a¡d AÈu Faraj, who lists the Byzantine commander as: "Ashkirash,
captain of the Armaniko . . l',p.11'2.
r73 For Hisn Kalidiyah/Claudias (a fortress near Melitene), see Baladhuri, 291', artd
Abu Faraj, 113. For kahkala/Theodosiolis/Erzerum see Baladhuri,372, Theophanes,
116, and Âbu Fara;, 1L3, who also refers to Kamak, but places the events in 755 A.D.
The attack on Kalikala was reported by Baladhuri as having been led by one
Kusan al-Armani, who may be identical to Abu Faraj's Ashkirash of the Armaniko.
As such he would probably have been the commander of a sizeable detachment from
Constantine's main force it Malatyah. Kalikala was also:" . . . razed to the ground;"
Baladhuri,312.
17a Tabari, Williams, xxvü, 197. No details are given for the raid, and no other source
mentions it at all.
17s Yaqubi, (1900) 792. Ofcourse this contradicts Tabari's account for750-1, but the
generaltimpression for the decade 743-753 is one of inactivity and weakness on the
part of the Caliphate.
The accomplishments of Salih's raid are not known'
85

penetrating imperial territory. Instead, it remained at Duiuk and retired upon

receiving news of the death of Abu-l-Abbas.176 Theophanes relates Salih's raid

at the head of 80,000 men r¡nder the following year. The invaders are said to

have turned back upon hearing that Constantine was taking the fetl'd'ln

Perhaps there were two raids Íor 754-5, one before and one after the accession

of al-Mansur. But it seems mofe likely that Yaqubi is mistaken here, for

Theophanes and Tabari seem to match each other closely in most of the

details.

The lackluster performance of Arab raiders in the early years of al-

Mansur's reign may not have troubled the Caliph as he seems to have been

more concerned about the state of the border citadels than upon any offensive

action. Baladhuri stresses al-Mansur's refortificatíon of previously weakened

cities and fortresses:

When Abu ]afar al-Mansur beganhis rule,


he examined the forts and cities, peopled
and refortified them, and rebuilt those
of them that were in need of being rebuilt.
The same thing he did with the frontier cities.l78

Various sources record a major reconstruction effort put into effect by al-

Mansur. Between 757 and759, al-Mansur directed the refortification of

176 Tabari, Williams, i,3.


1?7 Theophanes,119.

t78 Baladhuti,252. He goes on to state that al-Mahdi(m5-85) continued the


fortifications work which al-Mansur began.
86

zibaftah,al-Massissa, Malatyah, Kalidiyah, Kalikala and Kamkh.17e At about

tlLis time construction was begun on the cify of Adanah in Cilicia,


which

would grow to a major Arab border cify over the next century. Finally,

Baladhuri notes that Marash was rebuilt at some time during the reign of al-

Mansut.iso

The details available for certain of the fortification efforts suggest that

they were quite extensive. Marash was strengthened even though it had been

rebuitt already by Marwan r,n747-8.181 Al-Massissa too, had been resettied

and fortified previously in 750by Abu-a1-Abbas. After an earthquake al-

Mansur raised the walls and. increased the garrison by 400 men.182

probably the most significant of al-Mansur's refortification efforts was

that of Malatyah after its total destruction at the hands of Constantine in


751'

1n757-8,a1-Mansur sent Salihb. Ali to begin work on the city which had once

been a major population center and military staging point. 70,000 workmen

and troops were gathered for the task, and when it was completed the walls

L1s Zibatrah- Baladhur i,299; al-Massisa - Baladhuri,Zl7; Malatyah and Kalidiyah -


Baladhuri, 291.-3; Abu Faraj has the reconstruction of Malatyah -ga- $to¡i]1t1
(Kalikala) in 755,p.1.13. Baladhuri records the rebuilding of Kalikala tn757-8; Kamkh
I Yaqubi,'Broots(ilOO) 733; Baladhuri, who gen¡Tly se9m: to be in posses-sion of
more information on Xu*tfr, states that it wãs held by the Byzantines until 766-7,
p.289.

t80 Adanah - Baladhuri,260;for Adanah's growth and its role in later border
situation, see Haldon and Kennedy,707-8. Marash - Baladhuri,295.
rer ¡4 Z9|;Tabari, Williams, xxvii, records the Marwanid reconstruction, 121'
182 1o addition, Abu-t-Abbas had already raised the number in the garrison by 400 in
750; Baladhuri,257.
87

were defended by 4000 men besides, as Baladhuri puts it: " . . . the necessary

garrison."læ L:r 759-60, a further unit of cavalry was posted at Lrlalatyah

specifically to deter imperial attack.le Thus, a presumably well fortified city

with over 4000 defenders was no longer considered safe from Constantine's

forces.185

In7s7-S,Constantine led an expedition to ]aihan, but reportedly fled

upon acquiring in-formation concerning the size of the host arayed against

him.186 This entry in Baladhuri is similar enough to a comment of Theophanes

for the previous year as to merit attention. Salih b. Ali is said to have entered

imperial territory only to retreat upon hearing that Constantine had taken the

field in response. The passages are virtually identical save for the substitution

of the imperial forces for those of the Caliphate in the latter instance. In each,

the enemy is reported to have fled before greater numbers of the defender.

Perhaps what each author has preserved is not similar events for two years/

183 ibid, 293. For the rest of the fortifications there are no details as to their extent.
Kalidiyah is generally treated by the sources as an outpost of Malatyah rather than as
an ind'ependant fortrêss. Concóming Kalikala, Baladhuri notes that the population
-ar.uolomed from the Byzantines and allowed to resettle in the former locale,313.
184 1bid,2g3.

18s However, the Abbasids were able to accomplish their refortification with
comparatively little intervention from the Empire. Since 755-6, Constantine had been
embioiled in a bloody war on the westem frontier against the Bulgars. According to
Theophanes, this conflict was brought on by a series of imperial border fortifications
erected by Constantine in order better to control the Bulgars (Theophanes, 119). The
war in thã west continued irregularly for the rest of Constantine's reign- It is not the
intent of this sbudy to address Ihis cónffct except as it bears uPon the Byzantine/Arab
border situation; for the Bulgar wars, see Theophanes, LL9-135.
185 Baladhuri,293.
88

but prejudiced, views of the occurences of the same season. If this is so, then

both Empire and Caliphate mustered sizable forces for the campaigning period

but each declined to commit them against an equally impressive army. Thus,

Theophanes relates that after a season of stalemate Salih retwned beyond the

passes with: " . . .o.Iy those few Armenians who had gone over to hi*.tt187

With the fortifications completed the Caliphate was once more capable

of pursuing a more aggressive border policy. This policy was certainly made

more tenable by Constantine's involvement in the Bulgar wars in the west.

Large Byzantine forces, probably comprising the majorify of the Tagmata and

at least portions of the westem themes, were often in the field at the opposite

end of imperial teritory. By necessify this would have made any sort of

aggressive action on the eastern front a comParatively minor enterprise.lss

While Constantine was personally active in the west, the defence of the

east necessarily fell to the various thematic strategoi who came under attack.

Such was the case in 759-60, while the Emperor was campaigning rather

187 Theophanes, 119. This interpretation also coincides with Tabari's record of Salih's
retreat.
There is also the possibility that two distinct years' of raiding are recorded by
the two sources. Such a confusion would have been easy for Theophanes to make.
The year as he records it begins September 1 and ends August 31. Thus Theophanes'
year 757-8 would last from 1 SeptemberTST to 31 August 758. Tabari's coresponding
ônny, following the Arabic calendar with its shorter year, runs from 25 May 757 to 13
May 758.
188 There are two main phases to the Byzanitne/Bulgar conflict. From 758-65,
Constantine was in the field every year save lor 767-2 and763-4. The second phase
began aJter Constantine repudiated the peace (of which there are no details) rr:.772-3
and continued until his death (L4 September,775).
89

the
unsuccessfuily in the Baikans, Theophanes relates a significant defeat of

army of the Armeniac theme:

The Arabs attacked Romania and took many


prisoners. At Melas they joined battle
with Paul the general of the Armeniacs;
they killed him and a host of soldiers,
and brought back many heads, and forty-two
importani men in bonds.18e

Yaqubi records two more raids fot 760-1' and762-3 but offers no more

information on either.leO Abu Faraj is more infomative for the latter event:

And in that same year 1L073 of the Greeks,


A.D.7621the Arabs went up in wrath against
the valley of Germanikeia, which is Marash,
because they heard that [their] spies [or
scouts] had been enslaved by the Rhomaye'
And they carried off the people of the
country into captivity, and took them away
. . . this they also did with the natives
of Samosata.lel

The words of Abu Faraj raise a difficulty concerning Marash. The last known

reference records an addition to the defences at the order of Mansur'le2

Apparently during the period between the refortification of Marash under

Mansur and762,there was an increase in the strength of the local Byzantine

18e Theophanes, 119. There are fwo rivers by the name Melas, one in coastal Isauria,
the otherã hibutary of the lower Sangarius. Either is possible, since Paul would
be
far from the A¡ea of the Armeniac thãme in either case. Yaqubi confirms the raidbut
provides no details beyond the name of the commander - al-Abbas; Yaqubi, Brooks
(1900) 733.

leo Yaqubi, Brooks (1900) 733.

1e1 Abu Faraj, L18.

t" Baladhuri,295.
90

presence. This Byzantine resurgence was enough to provoke a military

retaliation by the caliphate, yet there is no other record of any imperial action.

The passage seems to suggest that the city ítself was the target of the Arab

attack, which would lead one to understand that the Byzantines were in

possession of it. Perhaps the reference of Abu Faraj to the 'spies' taken by the

Empire should be understood to mean the entire garrison of border guards

and therefore the city as well. Rather than re-garrison the city, the Arabs

chose to remove their subjects from the district of Marash. A similar case

probably obtained for Samosata.le3

Yaqubi records that the Arabs carried out trnspectacular raids for the

next several years while Constantine was involved in the Bulgar wars. Tabari

is at variance with Yaqubi's details on more than one occasion. Fot 765-6,

Tabari has Salih b. Ali as the leader of the expedition and notes that it

remained camped at Dabiq.rea Yaqubi refers to the raid of al-Fadhl b. Saiih b.

Ali.les Given the custom of both the Empire and the Caliphate exploiting the

other's weakness in order to raid over the Taurus border, it is logical to expect

1s3 It appears that this is an instance of Byzantine conquest that went unrecorded by
aoy untiho.ity save perhaps for the vague reference of Abu Faraj above. It will be
seen that there are other such 'hidden'raids'

1ea Dabiq is: "An important Muslim base on the Byzantine frontier, north of Aleppo;"
Tabari, Kênnedy, 40. Dabiq is possibly to be identified with Duluk'
1es Little can be said'¡¡ith any degree of certainty conceming such contradictions.
Perhaps Salih sent his son on a minor expedition. Perhaps a Byzantine aflny was in
the fietd and Salih held his force in res.Ñe in case of need. ln aoy event the season's
raiding appears to have been of little consequence.
9t

major assaults to have been launched by the Arabs while Constantine and the

Tagmata were occupied in the west. Indeed tlLis would seem to have been the

case when the strategos Paul was kitled 1n759-60. Yet for the next several

years,as has been seen above, only minor raids are recorded. This is due to

the timety intervention of the }Crazars, who launched a major invasion of

Muslim Armenia in the 760s.1e6 After having caused a great deal of

destruction, the Khazars withdrew before the Arab counter-attack arrived at

Tiflis to repulse the horde.1e7

It is difficult to determine the reasons for the KJtazar attack upon

Muslim-held Armenia at this time. Tabari states that extra troops wefe

stationed at Tiflis due to concern about a potential revolt, but unless the

rebellion materialized it offered no benefit to an attacker.les In additiory the

Bab al-Lan had come under Muslim domination at some time du¡ing the

Caliphate of Mansur. Baladhuri suggests that at the beginrring of the reign,

Bab al-Lan was garrisoned with a guard of Arab cavalry.lÐ These factors do

let Abu Faraj has 762 A.D.,p.774. Theophanes places the assault 1n763-4, but says
that a second Khazar expedìtion was made in the following year,l?3. Tabari
preserves the instance oi the Turkish attack n764-5; Kennedy, 1'4-5. -- -
^ Atthough the date of the attack is certainly open to dispute, all the atcounts
agïee on the r.ãpe of the invasion and the damage inflicted upon the populace in the
area. Tabari even states that Tiflis fell.
1e7 Tabari, Kennedy,40. Theophanes definitely states that there was a bloody battle
between the Turks and the Arabs,1.24.

1eB Tabari, Kennedy, 14-5.


1ee Baladhsri,329.
92

nothing to indicate that there was any apparent weakness on the part of the

Caliphate which the Khazars might exploit. The situation does not seem to

have been a propitious one for a successful invasion'

Another explanation exists, but it must remain purely speculative/ as no

direct evid,ence is available to substantiate what might be simple coincidence'

Since Constantine initiated the war with the Bulgars and even prolonged it

when opportunity arose to make Peace, it may be assumed that he was

confident of his abilify not only to defeat the Bulgars, but also to repel the

Arabs.200 A bribe to the Khazars to attack Armenia would have allowed

Constantine to concentrate on the Bulgarian situation, secure in the knowledge

that the Muslim raids would necessarily be minor. He may have arranged this

prior to the initiation of the western campaign or as a desperate measure after

the defeat of the Armeniacs under Paul. Certainly Constantine had seen

examples of a similar stratagem used by his father. Yet no information suvives

which might substantiate this possibility.2ol

Regardless of the instigation of the Khazar attack, its effect was highly

beneficial to the Empire. Apart from the disruption of the region which must

have occurred, the Khazars were attacking the very territory which was home

to the raiders sent by the Catiphate to loot Byzantine lands. It would have

2oo Theophanes,62.

201 See above for similar actions taken by Leo IIi, see n.77, andp'69,74-6' Given the
bias of the surviving sources against Constantine, it is hardly surprising that no
information on his diplomatic efforts is extant.
93

been a rash commander indeed who sent out a large raiding expedition only to

leave his base exposed to the marauding Khazars. The raiding forces are the

most logical units to be involved in any defence or retaliation against the

invasion. This would obviousty limit the numbers available to plunder across

the Taurus. Thus, there is little wonder that there were few raids of note in

this period.

With the Khazar threat hotding the Arabs on the eastern border in

check, Constantine was able to conclude a partially successful campaign

against the Bulgars in the sulnmer of.768.202 While the emperor and his

tagmata were so involved the soldiers of the Caliphate attacked Kamkh.203

According to Tabari after a fierce seige the town was taken by storm. Yet for

the same event, Theophanes states: " . . . Abd Allah beseiged Kamachon all

summer long but withdrew in disgrace without having accomplished

anytlLing."2M The following year another raid was made under Yazidb. Usaid,

but Tabari notes that: . . . he did not lead the people to the land of the enemy

202 There is no record of a peace tteaty,but hostilities ceased. The summet of 766
saw Constantine lose a largè fleet of troop ships in the Black Sea; Theophanes, 126'
203 Kamacha-Ani or Kamachon, Baladhuri,288; Tabari, Kennedy,42; Theophanes,
132. The last reference to Kamkh was in 751 when Constantine th¡eatened it during
the Malatyah campaign, Baladhuri,397. Yet there is no indication that the city fell at
that time. Either eotlitantine succeeded in taking Kamkh n751' or it fell to another
unrecorded Byzantine assault as in the case of Marash.
lncidently, Baladhuri notes that Kamkh remained hotly contested and changed
hands repeatedly over the next cen|ury and more; Baladhuri, pøssim.

2oa Theophanes, 132. Little can be deduced from such completely contradictory
passages, save that perhaps they refer to events from different years.
94

but stayed at Marj Dabiq."20s Two more years of unimpressive raids foliowed,

and for 769-70, Tabari again relates that the raiders did not go through the

passes into imperial lands.

In770-1, the Calphate made a more substantial effort and, taking a

Byzantine fortress by surprise, they pressed on to raid as far as Laodikeia

Katakekaumane, where many prisoners were taken.2oó The followingyeat,

although it saw only a minor raid, found the Emperor suing for peace with

Mansur.2o7 Yet, as damaging as the attack on Laodikeia may have been, there

is nothing to suggest that the attack alone should have convinced Constantine

that he was militarily overwhelmed.

Theophanes' Cfuonosraphia contains a record of the Arab campaign


L

against the coastal town of Sykes:

[Ibn Wakkas] advanced from Isauria to


the fortress of Sykes, which he beseiged.
When the Emperor heard of this he wrote
-

to Michael the general of the Anatolics,


Manes of the Bukellari, and to Bardanes
of the Armeniacs, who all moved to seize
the rugged pass which was Ibn Wakkas'exit
route. Under its general the protosPatharios

20s Tabari, Kennedy, 50. Yaqubi also records the raid but for the previous year/
Brooks, (1900) 733.

206 Tabari, Kennedy, 66. Laodkeia Katakekaumene is north-west of Iconion on the


military road. Here, as before in Leo's reign, it is quite possible that the city was not
captured but had its suburban portions heavily ravaged. Conceming the un-named
foitress, it may be assumed that it lay on the military road somewhere between the
Cilician gates and Laodikeia. Here, Tabari specifically states that its garrison was
seized; thus the citadel's capitulation was probably total.

207 Lbid.70.
95

Petronas, the Kibyraiot's naval force reached


Sykes harbor and anchored there. When he
saw this,Ibn Wakkas lost all hope for him-
self. But he encouraged and inspired his
troops, who sallied forth against the motrnted
thematic troops while shouting their war cry
and put them to rout. He killed many of them
and captured all the territory round-abouts,
then withdrew with much plunder.2o8

Caution must be exercised in dealing with this account, for it mentioned in no

other source and may well exaggerate or misrepresent the situation in any

number of ways. Certainly, had the campaign turned out as well as

Theophanes suggests, the Arab authorities would have lost no opportunity to

report such success. Yet if the essentials of the record are accepted - i.e. that

an Arab expedition beseiged Sykes, eluded the Byzantine forces sent against it,

and then inflicted a defeat upon the imperial forces massed there - then it

becomes easier to understand the motivation for Constantine's bid for Peace.

Perhaps the most significant factor which led to the Emperor's

negotiations with the Caliphate is not directly related to the Arab-Byzantine

conflict at all. Since the cessation of conflict against the Bulgars, The Byzantine

mititary appeafs to have relied uPon the thematic troops almost entirely.

There is no record of any action taken by the tagmata on the Taurus border or

elsewhere.2æ The Arab raids on Kamkh and Laodikeia were resisted only by

208 Theophanes,133.

2oe There was, however, a Byzantine offensive launched against Muslim Armenia in
770-1,. it was in atl likelihood a minor raid carried out by local thematic troops; ibid,
132.
96

the garrisons of those cities. As has been seen above the troops called upon to

relieve Sykes were all thematic. Concerning Kamkh and Laodikeia, it is true

that the Emperor and the tagmata were already committed against the Bulgars,

but Constantine was obviously aware of the attack on Sykes early enough to

take part in its defense. He did so without the use of the tagmata.

In his entry for 755-6, Theophanes records the loss of a fleet of 2600

troop ships in a fierce Black Sea storm. The number is no doubt exaggetated,

but the damage to imperial forces appears to have been significant. In all

probability, the tagmata (and possibly some thematic troops) would have taken

ship to Bulgar lands. If such is the case, Constantine may well have lost the

majority of his most seasoned troops to the Euxine tides. This potential

crippling of the tagmata would limit Constantine to just the sort of action that

he took concerning Sykes. When it became obvious thatthe thematic troops

were inadequate to defend the Taurus unsupPorted, even the headstrong

Constantine would have been left with littte choice but to explore non-martial

options to safeguard his border.210 Mansur's reply to the request is not known,

but Arab raiders continued to exploit imperial weakness on the frontier.

In772-3, another raid was carried out in the region of al-

2r0 Of course, paying off invaders rather than opposing them militarily is a,device
which dates baãk before the fall of the westem Roman Empire. Economically, paying
tribute could well have been more cost-effective than fielding a defense; certainly this
is the case if the defense is known to be inadequate. Finally, given Constantine's
behavior in his negotiations with the Bulgars, it is overwhelmingly likely that he
would have adherèd to the peace only for as ong as it suited his pulpose. For his
breaking of the Bulgar treaties, see Theophanes, 119, 725,1'34.
97

Massissa/Mopsuestia. After looting the countryside, the invaders were set

upon by the inhabitants of the city and one thousand Arabs are said to have

been s1ain.211 Yazid.b. Usaid surrounded an unnamed fortress and looted the

countryside in the following year,but no mofe is known.212 kr774-5, Tabari

records an expedition through the Darb al-Hadath which met Byzantine

resistance and broke off the raid, presumably to refu¡n home.213 The

Byzantines encountered were almost certainly local thematic troops. The

tagmata could never have reached Hadath in time to stop the invaders. They

could only have arrived in time to meet the A¡abs deeper in imperial territory.

Also, the majority of the surviving tagmata would probably have been serving

in the west in the renewed Bulgar wars.

On 14 September 775, amidst the current campaign against the Bulgars,

Constantine V died. Less than one month later, Mansur, who had been Caliph

for more than half of Constantine's reign, also died. His son and successor, al-

2rt1bid,133. Tabari records a different raid led by Zufar b. Asim al-Hilali;


Kennedy,76. Yaqubi records the raid of Zufat under the followingyear; Brooks,
(1e00)734.
The last known reference to al-Massissa/Mopsuestia is to its repopulation by
the Arabs 1n758-9, due to Byzantine pressure which forced its inhabitants away;
Baladhuri, 257. Itis not unlikely that Theophane is in error in his assertion that the
inhabitants of al-Massissa counter-attacked the Arabs. Tabari has the city in Muslim
hands only two years later. This would suggest another unrecorded conquest, this
time by the Arabs. While this is possible, it is more likely that Theophanes is
referring to rural denizens of the region surrounding the city rather than to the
inhabitants of the town itself. See Haldon and Kennedy,p.10L, for a description of the
intermixture of Arab and Byzantine living arrangements on the Taurus frontier.
212 Tabai, Kennedy, 79-80. It is worthy of note that Constantine was once more
forced to contend with the Bulgars this year; see Theophanes, 134'
213 Tabari, Kennedy,86. Hadath is Adata.
98

Mahdi, immediately undertook to strengthen certain of the fortifications along

the Taurus border, thus continuing the tradition of increased Arab border

defenses begun over three decades before by Hisham. That al-Mahdi saw the

need of further fortification is a tribute to the ability of Constantine V, who

made the border into a no-man's-land rather than simply an Arab region

tlrough which Arab troops passed on looting expeditions. It now remains to

analyse the actions and policies of Constantine V in order to arrive at an

understanding of his acheivement.

A careful analysis of the sources concerning Constantine's treatment of

the Arab situation reveals a consistent policy for the Taurus border. To judge

by his handling of the Bulgarian border, Constantine obviously favored a very

offensive system of defence on all fronts but nowhere was this more evident

than in the east. Attacks launched by the Byzantines on Arab territory could

realize several benefits beyond the obvious one of a victory on the field.

Certainly successful raids on Muslim possessions would do much to

redress the balance of power on the frontier. Economically, any booty could

partially or even wholly offset the expences of a campaign. Such an offensive


99

campaign, if it resulted in booty, would be far less taxing on the imperial

treasury than would a purely defensive reaction.2la

In addition to the above factors, the effect of Constantine's siezure of

several border towns and forts must be assessed for its effect upon the balance

of power. During his reign, the Emperor captured ten Arab frontier towns.

Of these, six are recorded as having been destroyed rather than garrisoned,

one is said to have been occupied and one reported as having been razed and

depopulated specifically to negate it as impediment to future Byzantine action

in the region.21s The above actions go far toward demonstrating the existence

of a consistent program enacted by Constantine which was aimed at the

establishment of a no-man's-land between the Empire and the Caliphate.

Several sound justifications exist for this policy and therefore the abondonment

of the captured sites.

Obviously, if a town or fortress has fallen once, its viability as a

defensive site has been brought into question. Also, the expenses involved in

the refortification and the establishment of a garrison are also likely to have

been sizable. Yet, the most prohibitive factor must have been the logistical

"n However, the benefits of a successful defensive campaign should not be


underestimated - especially if the defenders were to catch the raiders heavily laden
with stolen Byzantine goods as they attempted to retum home through the passes.
While this system of defense was adopted for sound tactical reasons, it also served the
unlooked-for purpose of a particularly harsh form of indirect taxation upon the people
of the frontier. See Dennis ,'1.38, for the attractiveness of arnbushing a laden and
homeward bound force.
21s Baladhuri,291..
100

difficutfy of provid-ing economic and military support to the garrison of the

new possession. Unless the garrison were self-sufficient (an unlikely

possibility in the case of a large body, as would have been necessary to hold a

town) it wou-ld necessarily have had to rely on either local produce or an

imperial shipment of supplies. Local produce on the frontier would have been

r¡rueliable and as subject to Arab attack as the site had been previously.

Subsid-ized shipments at the instigation of the Emperor were possible, as may

be seen from the grain fleets brought from Africa to the Imperial City in the

years prior to the loss of the Carthage to the Muslims. But the expense was in

atl probability far too high to merit a similar scheme for a series of bord.er

towns which did not serve any significant purpose.2tt

When the strategic value of the captured towns is assessed, it becomes

apparent that they did not suit the Emperor's PurPose. Flowever, to

unrderstand this fully it is necessary to analyse the differences between Arab

and Byzantine frontier settlement patterns.

Haldon and Kennedy have descibed the style of settlement in use by the

Byzantines' on the border as follows:

The fairly extensive border regions, then, were


characterized above alt by a concentration of
settlement arotmd refuge-points and fortresses,

216 Hendy has already demonstrated the extremely local nafure of the Byzantine
economy in the east during this period. M. Hendy, Studies in the Byzantine
Monetarv Economv.300 557-9.
+
101

and the rurlization of urban ltf.e.217

In conLrast, the Muslim model was rather more cosmopolitan:

The main unit of defense was not the isolated castle


[of the Byzantines] but the fortified city. These cities
were artificially created to serve a military Purpose
but they soon came to have an economic role, both
as local market towns,and as entrepots for trade
with the Byzantines.2ls

Generally then, the frontier consisted of Arab walled trading centres in the

lowlands surroundedby Byzantine mountain-citadels in positions of natural

defensibillty."t

When this difference between Arab and Byzantine practice is

understood, the primary reason for Constantine's policy of destruction

becomes clear. It was undesirable, and in fact impossible, for him to hold the

captured towns without committing far more men than he could spare. The

garrison of a formerly hostile town would require at least as many troops as

would a comparably sized city in the imperial heartland, probably more.

Instead, by maintai.i.g small, virtually impregnable strongholds near the

217 Haldon and Kennedy,l}l; Haldon and Kennedy also note the anonymous Hudud
al-Alam which describes the standard Byzantine settlement pattern: "Most of the
districts are prosperous and pleasant, and have (each) an extremely strong fortress, on
account of the frequency of the raids which the fighters of the faith direct upon them.
To each village apertains a castle, where in time offlight (they may take shelter)";
Minorskv. Hudud. 156-7.
2ts ibid.1o9.

21e Haldon and Kennedy,101,.


L02

invasion routes, it was possible for the border troops to become aware of an

impending attack in time to notify the local thematic headquarters. For such a

drty, a minimal number of men would be required.zO

Thus, from Constantine's perspective, it was highly efficient both

economically and militarily, to allow the captured sites to fall into ruin rather

than attempt to man them. In this wãf r the Caliphate suffered not only the

expense of the initial loss, but also the additional costs involved in refortifying

and manning the site.zl

The focus of the preceeding pages has been to explore Constantine's

policy of aggresive defense and assessed the merits of such a scheme; it now

remains to determine the success or failure of the emperor's actions. Certainly

one way of doing so is to analyse the behavior of the Caliphate. As the focus

of Constantine's works, the doings of the Muslims can indicate the degree to

which the Empire was taken as a threat.

To judge by the amount of refortification carried out by the various

Caliptrs whose reigns coincided with Constantine's, it is apparent that the

220 Itshould be noted that this is precisely the system described in the 6th- and 10th-
century manuals on border warfare translated by Dennis; 6th-century ,23-9;1'0th-
century,153.
It is also significant that such aforce, in addition to being cheaper to maintain,
would also have been a less easy and certainly less profitable prize than a rather
loosely held town that also served as the hub of the local economy.

221 One need only refer to the preceeding pages to find that, for this period, there
seemed to have been little question of allowing the ruined sites to ¡emain so.
103

forces of Islam took the Byzantine atiacks very seriously indeed. Every Caliph

in question put into effect significant refortification programs. With such

money and effort going into defensive works, obviously there would be less

support available for offensive actions. Such support was usually necessary/

for, as Haldon and Kennedy point out, the annual raids on imperial territory

were rarely monetary successes.z

The effects of the Byzantine attacks may also be seen in the relative

weakness of the Arab raids of this period. For the entirety of Constantine's

reign, the Caliphate succeeded in conquering only two sites, as comPared to

the ten towns and citadels taken by the Emperor. In additiory it is necessary

to consider the nature of the fortifications of the Empire and the Caliphate

when assessing the significance of the numbers.

As has already been noted, the Byzantines of the border favored a

highiy defensible, comparatively small, highland fortress surourded by an

essentially unprotected suburb outside its walls. The general mode of defense

when attack was imminent was to move all inhabitants of the suburban area/

along with any portable wealth, within the safety of the castle walls. While

the overburdened facility may not have been able to sustain the additional

populace for an extended siege, ci¡cumstances argue against the regular

occurence of such an action. It would have been a matter of some difficulty to

supply and provision the troops neccesary to besiege such a citadel and hold

222 Haldon and Kennedy,1,1,4-5.


1"04

out against any reinforcements sent by the surrounding thgmes.

It is obvious that any attack against such a settlement would involve the

looting of the unprotected and abandoned buildings outside the walls. This

would, in alt likelihood, have gone on regard,less of the success, failure or even

existence of an assault on the citadel itself. But the booty acquired from such

'conquests' must have been very small and the disruption of the local lifestyle

may well have been equally minor. In such an unstable environment, with the

only succor available inside the keep, most things of value would be lost

rapidly unless they were portable enough to be carried to safety in times of

danger. Further, if the locals were unable to transport some object of value

due to its immovability, then the Arabs may well have passed it over as it

would have been difficult to take back th¡ough the passes.z'

Given the above pattern of Byzantine settlement, there is a significant

possibilify that at least some of the Arab 'conquests' of the period were, in fact,

only partially successful in the manner described above. This appears to have

been the case in the instance of Kamkh 1n766-7.n4 htis quite possible that this

is at least part of the story behind Theophanes' confusing references to the

223 If the relief force did not catch the raiders before the passes, they could easily
have gotten into position to ambush them during this most vulnerable stage of the
joumey. It would have been dangerous to slow the retum in such circumstances. See
Dennis, 233, for the imperial fondness for this type of attack.
22n Baladhuri,288;
Tabari, Kennedy, 42; Theophanes, 132. See p. 107, n.203. Sirnilar
partially successful raids appear to have occurred at Ikonion and Akroinon in the
reign of Leo; see n.89 above, for lkonion. For Akroinos, see n.108.
L05

seige of Sykes.zs

If the style of Byzantine settlement on the frontier means that the targets

of Arab raids may not have been seriously disturbed by them, th" ,u*. *uy
not be said in reverse. Given the Arab settlement-type of walled-town, the

same defensive options were not available to those within. A walled city
might provide a more difficult target initially, but this is debatable because the

earthworks were unsupported by any advantage of terrain.z6 Moreover once

the walls were takery the city as a whole, which was generally of some size,

was open to the invaders. At this point, even if there were a central strong-

hold within the city, it was probably unequal to the task of housing the fleeing

citizens and their possessions. Nor did the strong-hold have any more

advantage of natural defensibility than did the city itself. Thus, whether the

central strong-hold fetl or not, Byzantine conquests are likely to have been

more 'complete' than their Arab counterparts at this time. In addition, as

commercial centres and home to merchants, the Arab city was certainly a

22s Theophanes, 732-3. The


same may also hold for the attack on Laodikeia
Katakekumene; see n. 206.

226 Haldon and Ken¡edy state: "A few general points can be made in connection with
these [frontier Muslim] settlements. The fust is that they were all in the plains, on
fertile sites beside rivers, and the Arab geographers are lyrical about the richness and
fertility of many of them, especially in Cilicia;" Haldon and Kennedy, "The Arab-
Byzantine Frontier," 109.
1.06

richer púze than a small Byzantine border installation, which even the Muslim

sources do not honor with the term'Madinah' (city).z7

When carefully analysed, it may be seen that Constantine's acheivement

on the Taurus frontier was extraordinary. The number of conquests tells only

part of the story, for his captures were also richer than those of his adversaries.

Between the original losses and the expense of refortification it is probable that

the Taurus border constituted a greater drain on the Caliphate's financial

resources than at any time in the past.z8

Martially, Constantine was as successful as he could reasonably have

expected to be. Concerning diplomacy, nothing concrete may be stated. The

only possible remnant of the emperor's diplomatic efforts, the invasion of the

Khazars into Armenia in the760s, could as easily have been a timely

coincidence.

Perhaps the greatest downfall of Constantine's long reign was his

pursuit of the Bulgar conflict. He had only limited success in the west and the

concentration of time, money and troops elsewhere allowed the Caliphate the

opportunity to take the initiative and reestablish itself on the border

unmolested; it is no mere coincidence that this period saw the most damaging

227 Rather they use theword 'hisn' (fortress) or'qila' (castle). Haldon and Kennedy,
"The Arab-Byzantine Fr ontier," 9 6-7 .

zze should be remembered that, in addition to the acfual cost of the construction,

the Muslims also alloted to their fighting men stipends for their service. The stipends
for this frontier were greater even than normal; Haldon and Kennedy, "The Arab-
Byzantine Frontier," 112.
L07

Muslim raids of the entirety of Constantine's reign.

Yet it is important to recall that even these raids, certainly the worst

attacks recorded against Constantine, do not comPare with the devastation

wrought by Arab forces in the previous century, or even with the damage

inflicted. during the time of Leo ltr. The defenses of the Empire, even though

somewhat anemic after the loss of a considerable number of the Tagmata to

the Black Sea, appear to have been capable of bearing up under the might that

the Abbasids were able to muster against them.ze

As has been seen, over the course of Constantine's rule, the fortunes of

the Empire on the border rose significantly. Through a carefully aggressive

campaign of consistent attack and depopulation of the enemy's holdings, the

Emperor was able to build upon the foundation established by his father, Leo

III. Constantine also appears to have possessed Leo's ability to discern the

possible from that which was beyond his grasp. ]ust as Leo saw that his

forces could not bear up under the strain of a reign of constant border warfare,

Constantine saw that his own Empire was not capable of a war of reconquest.

I¡Vhat the Empire was capable of - establishing a strong presence on the


frontier and thereby asserting itself as a Power to be reckoned with by the

Caliphate -- Constantine accomplished admirably.

22e Obviously the state of the Caliphate also must be taken into account. The
Abbasids, evén after the revolution which put them in power, faced significant revolts
and challenges to their regime; this must have diverted considerable attention from
the western frontier. Yet, it is apparent above that there were far more factors
contributing to the redress of the balance of power than the intemal difficulties of the
Caliphate can claim.
108

VII

CONCLUSION

The forgoing analysis of the military interaction of Leo and Constantine

with the Caliphate makes it possible to discem pattems of activity and to

assess the value of the imperial response to Arab attack. It can now be seen

that no such analysis would be possible without the inclusion of the non-

Byzantine sources. These provide information which is found nowhere else

and, although they occasionally raise more questions than they answer, it is

these texts which contain the necessary data to check the testimony of

Theophanes and Nikephorus.

It is also obvious that there is more to be done on thê subject than has

been attempted here. There are other Arabic sources, more peripheral to this

study than Tabari, but of value nonetheless. Until these texts are made

available in translation they will be beyond the reach of many Byzantinists.

Ffowever, while the current work may not be complete, it can contribute

certain insights into the military situation on the Taurus border in the eighth

century.

It quickly becomes apparent that Bury was not far off in his general

assessment of the Isaurian Emperors' military acrunen. But it is possible to

glean more detail from the Arab sources, detail which allows for a more

specific understanding of the tactics and practices of the imperial forces. This
1.09

detail shows that both Leo and Constantine had capable military minds and

were able to separate the practical from the tmattainable. Each seems to have

been capable of matching the.resources available to the task at hand. Both

father and son perceived correctly that the Empire need fear for its existence

against the might of their neighbor to the east. Should the Caliphate ever

tfuow all of its power to the west of the Tau¡us, all other imperial concerns

would have to be subjugated to the central issue of continued survival.

In fact, the invasion of 715-78 was something not far from such a

situation. Leo's ability in blunting the thrust and in severely punishing the

forces of Islam at this time have long been recognised and need not be dwelt

upon. But the impact the invasion may have had uPon the Empire and the

new Emperor should not be overlooked. From that time f.orwatd, Leo made

every effort to be certain that the Caliphate never again gained the opportunity

to marshal such an expedition.

It would have been difficult for Leo to have escaped the conclusion that

the Empire only narrowly avoided annihilation at the hands of the Muslims in

718. He appears to have reacted immediately to the post-invasion situation by

alternately damaging the already weakened Arab border zone and fortifying

his own defenses. As the Caliphate recovered, attack no longer was a viable

option for Leo. hstead, he concentrated upon the Empire's relatively meager

defenses. Against even a modest invasion force, it would have been

impossible for the Emperor's armies to prevail if Leo had launched an attack
110

against the entirety of the invaders. Yet, in order to raid and loot effectively,

the Arab forces commonly separated shortly after entry into imperial territory.

By following aByzarttine tactical dictum in use two centuries before and after

his time, Leo was able to inflict small scale but widespread damage on the

raiders. In due course, Leo pushed back the zone of conflict to the region

bordering the Taurus. Only rarely did the Arabs penetrate beyond the

mountains in sufficient force to cause real concern in Constantinople; when

they did, the Emperor was able to respond with the necessafy troops to

confront the enemy. The long trek though Asia Minor gave Leo adequate time

to muster the themes near the capital to supplement the Tagmata. The results

may be seen in the encounter at Akroinon 1n739.

Thus, through guerilla tactics and the careful application of force to

obliterate the raiding tendrils of the main Arab host, Leo was able to safeguard

the bulk of Imperial land from devastation. By allowing the situation in the

border-zone to remain in the same state of chaos in which it had been for a

century or more, the Emperor insured his overtaxed military of a viable

method for protecting the Empire as a whole.

To tlLis military solution Leo added a diplomatic one. By seeking out

other enemies of the Catiphate and making coûunon cause, Leo was able to

ensure that the Caliphate would be unable to bring overwhelming numbers to

bear against Asia Minor. Remaining active in Transcaucasian politics, Leo

stirred up resentment of Muslim power among the Khazars, A1ans and others.
11.1.

lÅIhile this brought no conquests to the Empire, it forced the Caliphate to

commit troops and funds to pacification and governance of the area and to the

retention of Arab power in the region. On occasion, it also provided Leo with

timely and much needed aid when sizable Arab armies appeared over the

Taurus. With the oppotunity to call upon various Transcaucasian allies to

menace the rear of any Arab invasiory the Emperor held a weaPon against the

Caliphate which could not be countered by pouring greater forces into Asia

Minor.23o

When Constantine became Emperor on his father's death, the military

capabilities of the Empire continued to grow. Constantine immediately took

the offensive and extended the zone of conflict to include the Arab border-

citadels and towns. Upon establishing such a new balance of power,

Constantine forced the Caliphate to exert significant resources simply to

protect its own territories from imperial attack. Coupled with the internal

distress in years just prior to and including the Abbasid Revolution, this had

the effect of placing the armies of Islam almost entirely on the defensive.

Constantine, meanwhile, was able to create a no-man's-land of ruined or

poorly defended Muslim towns and fortresses under the surveillance of his

own border troops.

230 The attacks by Malamah b. Abd-al-Malik and then by Marwan b. Muhammad


upon the the Transcaucasian lands may have been an attempt to bringthese peoples
under sufficient control to remove thisthreat from the Imperial arsenal' Although
successful in the short term, the Abbasid Revolution seems to have been enough to
allow the tribes of the region to renew their independence.
1r2

This red¡ess in the balance of power on the Taurus was firmly enough

established to survive even while the Emperor was committing significant

forces to the wars against the Bulgarians on his western border (758-65 A.D

and,772-5). Upon Constantine's death The Empire's eastern border was more

secure than at any time since the advent of Islam.

Unlike his father, Constantine's answer to difficulties on the Taurus

seems to have been wholly mititary. If he gave any thought to the furtherance

of Leo's diplomatic efforts there appears to be no record of it. To his credit,

the Byzantine armed forces appear to have been equal to the task he set before

them: the preservation of the Empire's temitories.

Treadgold accuses Constantine of contributing little to his Empire over

the course of his reign because: " . . . he did no lasting damage to either enemy

[Arab or Bulgarian] and gained no territory for his Empire."23t While

Tread.gold later states that this was due more to the limitations of the Empire's

ability rather than his own, it seems clear that he has misunderstood

Constantine's purpose. The intentional destruction of more than one captured

site demonstrates that Constantine did not wish to expand his Empire. He did

want to defend firmty and easily the lands he held. To this end, he set about

destroying the staging points for Arab attacks and thereby creating an

environment hostile to their raiders where before it had been territory readily

and carelessly traversed.

231 Treadgold, Bvzantine Revival, 7.


a
1.13

The course of eighth century military relations between the Empire and

the Caliphate demonstrates a steady and pronounced improvement for the

Byzantines over the years 7L5-775. The fortunes of the Empire went from

essentially powerless prior to the attack on Constantinople in71,6, to quite

adequately defended under Leo ltr. It fell to his son, Constantine V, to take

the rejuvenated Empire of Leo and carried the battle to the Caliphate, securing

the accomplishments of his father and providing sufficient power and

resources to survive the ravages of the reigns of his immediate successors -

Leo IV, Constantine VI and Irene L


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1.74

SOURCES CONSULTED IN MAP COMPILATTON

Haldory J.F. and Kennedy, FI. "The Arab-Byzantine Frontier in the Eighth and
Ninth Centwies: Military Oryantzalon and Society in the Borderlands,"
Zbornik Radova Vizantinoloskog Instituta.l 9 (1 980) 7 9 -1'1'6.

Hendv. M. Studies in the Bvzantine Monetarv Eco Cambridge


University Press, Cambridg e, 1985.

Ramsay, W. The Historical Geography of Asia Minor. Royal Geographical


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Map inked and lettered by:

Sandra Schumann
WriText Communications + Graphics.
-
11.5

VItr

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